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Modernism/modernity reviews Make It the Same

front_cover modernism modernity April 2020Anatoly Detwyler has reviewed Make It the Same in the latest issue of Modernism/modernity. I’m deeply grateful to him for his careful and astute engagement with my work and for carrying on the conversation about the copy in contemporary literature and culture. The review begins:

In Make It the Same, Jacob Edmond weaves discussions on the meaning and interpretability of copying into an original study of the cultural and historical development of literary copying. The study is motivated and made urgent by the centrality of copying in culture today, where copying has come to dominate not just the elevated world of experimental writing and art, but cultural expression, production, and circulation more generally. The central contribution of Edmond’s book is the articulation of this cultural “iterative turn” by tracing its development in poetry through the last sixty years.

This iterative turn coincides with significant changes in the availability and usage of read-write media: technologies such as tape machines and personal computers that not only “read” the information embedded in a media object, but also make it possible to record new information over the original. As such, media have become increasingly mobile and affordable, they have collectively lowered the threshold for reproducing words, sounds, and images. Coupled with technologies such as mimeographs or digital devices, these read-write media have ushered in an era of remix culture and small run publishing.

The proliferation and impact of these media on cultural experimentation, Edmond shows, is inseparable from the contexts of globalization that largely shape postwar history, such as postcolonialism, Cold War geopolitics, and the spread of late capitalism, under which consumption has famously become a form of production. This global scope is necessary, Edmond emphasizes, not just for the sake of continuing the critique of Eurocentric conceptions of modernity, but more specifically for demonstrating the multivalent and cotemporal development of copy culture. The device of copying has emerged as a cultural glue that holds different contexts together, where repetition is repurposed in different-but-similar ways for the sake of reflecting and even actively establishing different-but-connected subjectivities. To illustrate this point, the book’s case studies invite a number of poignant comparisons, for example, in the deployment of repetition to explore bodily and linguistic difference foregrounded in the experience of migration and diaspora (addressed in chapters three and four). The material and social conditions that make the iterative shift a global phenomenon also contribute directly to its aesthetics of multiplicity, helping to engender a “conceptual shift from the inviolate work born in one language, nation, and medium, to the multimedia, multiversion, multiauthor text” (6).

You can read the rest of the review here.


Published by Jacob Edmond

Jacob Edmond is associate professor in English at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He is the author of Make It the Same: Poetry in the Age of Global Media (Columbia University Press, 2019), A Common Strangeness: Contemporary Poetry, Cross-Cultural Encounter, Comparative Literature (Fordham University Press, 2012), and of numerous essays, which have appeared in journals such as Comparative Literature, Contemporary Literature, Poetics Today, Slavic Review, and The China Quarterly.

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