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Green Matters

Ecocultural Functions of Literature

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Edited by Maria Löschnigg and Melanie Braunecker

Green Matters offers a fascinating insight into the regenerative function of literature with regard to environmental concerns. Based on recent developments in ecocriticism, the book demonstrates how the aesthetic dimension of literary texts makes them a vital force in the struggle for sustainable futures. Applying this understanding to individual works from a number of different thematic fields, cultural contexts and literary genres, Green Matters presents novel approaches to the manifold ways in which literature can make a difference. While the first sections of the book highlight the transnational, the focus on Canada in the last section allows a more specific exploration of how themes, genres and literary forms develop their own manifestations within a national context. Through its unifying ecocultural focus and its variegated approaches, the volume is an essential contribution to contemporary environmental humanities.

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Russell Williams

In Pathos, Poetry and Politics in Michel Houellebecq's fiction, Russell Williams examines the literary style of France's most notorious novelist. Houellebecq is frequently the focus of debate for his provocative comments about Islam and the decline of Western civilisation. This book refocuses attention on how such provocation is an integral part of the texture of his novels.
Williams considers Houellebecq's writing about literature and outlines the key principles of the author's poetics, founded on an acute sensitivity to reading experience. He then explores Houellebecq's earliest poetry before mapping this poetic voice into his subsequent fiction, including Sérotonine (2019). Houellebecq's relationship with genre fiction and the crucial issue of the authorial persona that exists in and around his texts are also explored.

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Edited by Norbert Bachleitner, Achim Hölter and John A. McCarthy

In this 200th volume of Internationale Forschungen zur Allgemeinen und Vergleichenden Literaturwissenschaft the editors Norbert Bachleitner, Achim H. Hölter and John A. McCarthy ‘take stock’ of the discipline. It focuses on recurrent questions in the field of Comparative Literature: What is literature? What is meant by ‘comparative’? Or by ‘world’? What constitute ‘transgressions’ or ‘refractions’? What, ultimately, does being at home in the world imply? When we combine the answers to these individual questions, we might ultimately reach an intriguing proposition: Comparative Literature contributes to a sense of being at home in a world that is heterogeneous and fractured, rather than affirming a monolithic canon marked by territory and homogeneity. The volume unites essays on world literature, literature in the context of the history of ideas, comparative women and gender studies, aesthetics and textual analysis, and literary translation and tradition.

Aphoristic Modernity

1880 to the Present

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Edited by Kostas Boyiopoulos and Michael Shallcross

For the first time in scholarship, this essay collection interprets modernity through the literary micro-genres of the aphorism, the epigram, the maxim, and the fragment. Situating Friedrich Nietzsche and Oscar Wilde as forerunners of modern aphoristic culture, the collection analyses the relationship between aphoristic consciousness and literary modernism in the expanded purview of the long twentieth century, through the work of a wide range of authors, including Samuel Beckett, Max Beerbohm, Jorge Luis Borges, Katherine Mansfield, and Stevie Smith. From the romantic fragment to the tweet, Aphoristic Modernity offers a compelling exploration of the short form's pervasive presence both as a standalone artefact and as part of a larger textual and cultural matrix.

Whirls of Faith and Fancy

House Symbolism and Sufism in Elif Shafak’s The Flea Palace

Verena Laschinger

Abstract

Elif Shafak’s The Flea Palace (2004) exposes secularized Istanbul as a grotesque world. By establishing the apartment building as a synecdoche for the city and negotiating the characters’ trajectories within the historical context of modernizing Istanbul, the novel presents their alienation as the sine qua non of the modern individual which is best confronted playfully or rather in the Sufi way. The argument is supported by the novel’s complex employment of circles and lines as thematic and formal patterns which refer to Islamic ritual practice of the Mevlevi Sufis in numerous ways.

African Cultural Festivals and World Literature

From the Map to the Territory

Claire Ducournau

Abstract

In an era where cultural festivals multiply, so-called African festivals have spread in Africa, but also outside of the continent, in major cities as well as in little-known villages, for example in provincial France. What are some of their implications and effects in the case of francophone African literature? These events privilege a continental representation of literature, which often reveals itself as problematic when confronted with the complex geographies of the texts and authors represented at these festivals. Using cross-disciplinary methodology, this critical inquiry reads different reallocations of this persistent African matrix through a typology and contemporary examples (Kossi Efoui’s writings, the “Étonnants Voyageurs” and “Plein sud” festivals). As an object of study, festivals bear witness to the necessity of expanding the toolbox of the (world) literary scholar by making use of documentary sources and adopting ethnographic approaches. It reveals a structural tension between an African map and various concrete territories, where local issues matter often more than this continental category, and can affect the form and content of literature itself.

The Literary World of the North African Taghrība

Novelization, Locatedness and World Literature

Karima Laachir

Abstract

The novels by North African novelists Waciny Laredj, Majid Toubia and Abdelrahim Lahbibi that refashioned the traditional Arabic genre of the taghrība inspired by the medieval epic of Taghrība of Banū Hilāl, still a living oral tradition in the region, offer an interesting case study of location in world literature. They circulate both within national (Algerian, Egyptian and Moroccan) literary systems and the pan-Arab literary field while maintaining a distinct aesthetic and political locality. In these novels, the literary life of the North African taghrība takes forms and meanings that are geographically and historically located, and that are shaped by the positionality of the authors. This paper intervenes in the discussion on location in world literature from the perspective of Arabic novelistic traditions by showing that the pan-Arabic literary field itself is far from homogenous but is marked by a diversity of narrative styles and techniques that can be both local/localised and transregional at the same time. Therefore, we need to shift our understanding of world literature beyond macro-models of “world-system” that assume a universally-shared set of literary values and tastes.

Locating the World in Metaphysical Poetry

The Bardification of Hafiz

Fatima Burney

Abstract

Discussions on world literature often imagine literary presence, movement, and exchange in terms of location and prioritize those literary traditions that can be easily mapped. In many regards, classical ghazal poetry resists such interpretation. Nonetheless, a number of nineteenth-century writers working in Urdu and English reframed classical ghazal poetry according to notions of locale that were particularly underpinned by ideas of natural essence, or genius. This article puts two such receptions of the classical ghazal in conversation with one another: the naičral shāʿirī (natural poetry) movement in North India, and the portrayal of classical Persian poet Hafiz as a figure of national genius in the scholarship of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Both these examples highlight the role that discourses of nature and natural expression played in nineteenth-century literary criticism, particularly with regard to conceptions of national culture. They also demonstrate how Persianate literary material that had long circulated in cosmopolitan ways could be vernacularized by rereading conventionalized tropes of mystical longing in terms of more worldly belonging.

Francesca Orsini and Laetitia Zecchini

On Islands and Deserts

Algerian Worlds

Tristan Leperlier

Abstract

This article argues for the necessity for world literature and postcolonial studies to examine both global hierarchies of literary legitimacy and those local practices which might challenge them, and give perspectives for other significant geographies. To do so, it focuses on the bilingual and transnational Algerian literary field; this requires different levels of interconnected analysis, namely of the two linguistic subfields, the intermediary level of national literary field and the two Francophone and Arabophone transnational literary fields. Trajectories and literary works of three very different yet linked writers, Rachid Boudjedra, Tahar Djaout and Tahar Ouettar, are examined in turn. The article traces both the global and linguistic inequalities to which they were subjected as well as their practices in order to argue that they reveal unexpected vectors of circulation between spaces and languages. Finally, this piece explores how and why each writer reinvents a world within their desert novels, that is, by narrating wanderings in the desert that are also explorations of national identity.