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I examine the models of Casanova and Moretti in turn. Her model has much explanatory power for the Europe of the past several centuries, and, arguably, for the post world at large, but by her own admission, can say little about the non-European world before The circulation of power within her republic of letters remains distinct from the circulation of power in the larger world; the currency of her republic cannot, it seems, be exchanged for dollars.

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Email required. Password required. Create an account Forgot your password? She claims its extra-literary implications in part by obscuring the differences between the various registers in which world literature works—the commercial, the literary, and the curricular.

And that is significant, because the contemporary meaning of the term depends greatly upon who uses it. A literary critic or novelist will object, citing instead works by writers with the aesthetic craft of J. An academic will frame the debates about world literature partly in terms of where and how to teach it, and few others care about that.

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As she argues against them, she vents prevailing anxieties about the worth of intellectual labor in the contemporary U. That is a lot to expect from literature of any sort. And because those expectations underwrite the debate about world literature, the critics who enter into it weigh in also on the good that literature might do in the world, balancing grand gestures with knowing shrugs.

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Christopher Prendergast, Ed., Debating World Literature

By all of its definitions, world literature is about as bound up with the economic conditions as other cultural phenomena—which is to say, completely. A critic who asks whether world literature reflects global capital asks a question that is as drearily easy to answer as the question of whether some literary meaning gets lost in translation.

And on both subjects, those one-word affirmations mask much better questions like where , how much, to whose advantage , and in what way. Naipaul, Salman Rushdie, J.

Alexander Beecroft, World Literature Without a Hyphen, NLR 54, November–December

Most readers will admire some authors on it much more than others and wonder what common fault binds them together. They take a shared interest in the European tradition of the realist novel, perhaps, and they have biographies that begin in wealthy strata of nations not known for great wealth; they are left leaning and politically provocative to some people in the world, but not to many Western readers of literary fiction.


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But it seems tautological to complain that the most successful authors are the most accessible, or the most heavily invested in the status quo. But that wish will not come true. Critical debates about world literature reflect the concerns of an academy that is both privileged and marginal—and it is deeply ambivalent about both of those things. Literary critics need money to buy the time it takes to look at capitalist structures and critique the violence they inflict on the rest of the world, not to mention the crassness with which capitalism dismisses our work.