Cornell University

To live here: worlds of modernist Haiku by Christopher Paul Bush

Thursday, March 12, 2020 at 4:30pm to 6:00pm

A.D. Whitehouse, Guerlac Room

Haiku has become such a part of mainstream culture that local TCAT buses post Bike-kus to help popularize Ithaca's Bike-walk program.  Christopher Paul Bush, French and Comp Lit at Northwestern University, will investigate the modernist perspective on haiku through his talk titled,  To live here: worlds of modernist Haiku.  The East Asia Program extends our thanks to the Institute for Comparative Modernities for their co-sponsorship.


In a span of about twenty years, starting at the turn of the twentieth century, the haiku went from being barely known outside of Japan to what could fairly be called a world literary form. In addition to the widespread translation (often retranslation) of Japanese haiku, there also arose an original literary production in English, French, Spanish, Italian, and other languages. This included not only the bits of lyric exoticism one might expect, but also works that engaged with many of the central issues of modernist poetics and indeed modernity more broadly. Specifically, the history of the modernist haiku foregrounds and elaborates tensions between conceptions of poetry as an increasingly concise, anti-discursive showing or shock, on the one hand, and the reinscription of those fleeting moments into complex and sustained projects of personal, national, and historical memory.

My talk will focus on three key moments in the modernist haiku tradition: the earliest French-language collection, Au fil de l’eau (1905); haiku written about the experience of trench warfare during the First World War and its connections to the avant-garde (most notably Julian Vocance’s Cent visions de guerre (1916)); and the Mexican haiku movement of the 1920s, including its reception in Europe. My conclusion turns to Shiki’s reinvention of the haiku form in order to consider how a more comparative history of the modernist haiku might help us interrogate not only the world but also the literature of “world literature.”

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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, Romance Studies, East Asia Program, Center for Intercultural Dialogue, Institute for Comparative Modernities (ICM)


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Amala Lane

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Christopher Paul Bush

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Northwestern University

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wheelchair accessibility; others upon advanced request


A light reception will follow the talk

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