Prof Vaclav Paris Discusses His New Book, The Evolutions of Modernist Epic
Václav Paris is an assistant professor of English at City College New York, where he teaches courses on modernism and literary theory. His first book, The Evolutions of Modernist Epic, came out with Oxford University Press in 2021. Research for this project was supported by a 2016 NEH award for faculty at Hispanic Serving Institutions. Václav’s other work has appeared in the form of articles in numerous literary journals and edited books. Václav is also a passionate student of languages and a translator. His recent translations include Zdeněk Kratochvíl’s The Philosophy of Living Nature and Vilém Flusser’s “The Power of Images.” His blog, mostly about hiking, can be found at: https://vaclavparis.wordpress.com/
Blurb for book:
Modernist epic is more interesting and more diverse than we have supposed. As a radical form of national fiction it appeared in many parts of the world in the early twentieth century. Reading a selection of works from the United States, England, Ireland, Czechoslovakia, and Brazil, The Evolutions of Modernist Epic develops a comparative theory of this genre and its global development. That development was, it argues, bound up with new ideas about biological evolution. During the first decades of the twentieth century--a period known, in the history of evolutionary science, as 'the eclipse of Darwinism'--evolution's significance was questioned, rethought, and ultimately confined to the Neo-Darwinist discourse with which we are familiar today. Epic fiction participated in, and was shaped by, this shift.
Drawing on queer forms of sexuality to cultivate anti-heroic and non-progressive modes of telling national stories, the genre contested reductive and reactionary forms of social Darwinism. The book describes how, in doing so, the genre asks us to revisit our assumptions about ethnolinguistics and organic nationalism. It also models how the history of evolutionary thought can provide a new basis for comparing diverse modernisms and their peculiar nativisms.