ENGL749E - Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature: Rethinking World Literature.

At times, the world itself seems surprisingly irrelevant to the dominant modes of collecting, describing, and marketing “World Literature”; “world” is often a pure abstraction, an empty container with no specific referent and a content designated from on high by ambitious anthologies and “great books” courses. And yet, there are worlds at stake. The past decade has seen a number of influential reformulations of World Literature, but if world literature is a problem (or the name of problem), “World Literature” is part of the problem. 

In this course, “Other World Literatures,” we would consider not only what kind of problem world literature is but also other models or modes for thinking world literature—models that don’t take the world itself for granted and that take other worlds seriously. Can we imagine and practice other world literatures that might disrupt—rather than aid and abet—normative globalization?Some of the questions we would explore: What is new in this new world literature; or, what is its (new) world? And what happened to the “Third World” in world literature? What gets left out of World Literature, and what gets expropriated or marginalized by virtue of being included? What other worlds—above, below, or aside—does “World Literature” obscure? What other world-systems—besides the center/periphery models—could be at work in the making and masking of world literature? In what ways is World Literature a reaction to postcolonial studies or an alibi for a domesticated, depoliticized cosmopolitanism conducted in European languages and within Euro-American networks of power? What does world literature look like from other locations? Are there alternative world-views or views of the world that don’t produce or reproduce the flat-earth literary maps of the world republic of letters, cosmopolitan comparatism, or normative transnationalism? Is “World Literature” merely what we call comparative literary study or literary commerce in the era of globalization? What happens to the theories and practices of World Literature when we factor in the effects of things like illiteracy and intellectual property laws, environmental and social crises, natural resource extraction, debt loads and dumping, commodity and capital accumulation, informal economic networks and labor pools, military and humanitarian domination, carbon (and other energy) economies . . . ? We would see if we could investigate and come up with approaches to the problems of world literatures that introduce wrinkles and wrenches in the time and space of World Literature as it is currently theorized.

We will read a wide range of critical texts from Goethe and Auerbach to Moretti, Casanova, Damrosch, Spivak, Chow, Spivak and Hardt and Negri. For the literary we will concentrate on novels written from the 1930s onwards from the postcolonial world at large. The novels chosen will be wide ranging in form and content and allow us to enagge with various formulation of "world" literature. 

You will write one seminar paper and make a brief presentation in class.