Justin Quinn’s new book tracks the movement of Central and Eastern European (primarily Czech) and American, British, and Irish poets and poetry across the Iron Curtain between 1948 and 1989. As Quinn stresses, the unassuming preposition across is key to his approach. Studies that remain on either side of the Cold War’s principal geopolitical divide, or within a single nation or language, afford only “an impoverished sense of the unprecedented transnational dynamic of the era” (42) and its poetry. Nor will comparison of putatively discrete traditions suffice to enrich that sense. Between Two Fires instead returns to one of the foundational insights of transnational studies, namely James Clifford’s description of cultural exchange and other “practices of displacement . . . as constitutive of cultural meanings rather than as their simple transfer or extension” (quoted in Quinn, 24). Quinn emphasizes poetry’s traversal of “the well-policed borders...
Between Two Fires: Transnationalism and Cold War Poetry by Justin Quinn
Claire Seiler is associate professor of English at Dickinson College. She is currently completing a book manuscript, “Midcentury Suspension.” The project fuses archival research in mid-twentieth-century print and public culture, theorizations of modernity and modernisms, and analyses of key texts to offer a new account of the postwar imaginary.
Claire Seiler; Between Two Fires: Transnationalism and Cold War Poetry by Justin Quinn. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 March 2017; 63 (1): 107–114. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0041462X-3833541
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