Cruel Operators: History, Empire, and Affect in the Global Anglophone Novel
“Cruel Operators: History, Empire, and Affect in the Global Anglophone Novel,” reanimates and repoliticizes the idea of “cruel aesthetics” within contemporary literature by placing cruelty at the crux of global capitalism’s operational antihumanist logic. Historicizing this logic, the project uses a more nuanced definition of the field of Global Anglophone literature as a space to contend with the economic, racial, and emotional legacies of empire. In turn, affective and aesthetic readings of the diverse novels of Jamaica Kincaid, W.G. Sebald, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Rachel Cusk as Global Anglophone, rather than British, allows for a criticism of global capitalism that is grounded within legacies of empire. The project shows how Jamaica Kincaid’s and W.G. Sebald’s focus on everyday cruelties and historical anachronisms reestablish narrative connections between the networks of violence between colony and empire. It also illustrates how Kazuo Ishiguro’s characters connect the mental and physical servitude within imperial power dynamics to current conditions of work. Finally, locating Rachel Cusk’s novels within a financialized world shows the ubiquitous anxiety of neoliberal present. While the project embraces the universalism of capitalist realities and their imperial foundations, it is only through the concrete expressions and everyday realities of life that the universal architecture of global capitalism can be assessed. Ultimately, linking colonialism with contemporary capitalism formally carves out new “ways beyond” the erasure, paralysis, and the anxiety of the crushing force of dominating world-systems by embracing a politics of refusal, allyship, solidarity, and the bolstering of a “collective intelligence” that comes from the systematic appraisal of cruel aesthetics.
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