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Abstract

This essay traces the problem of world literature in key writings by the Egyptian scientist and littérateur Aḥmad Zakī Abū Shādī. Abū Shādī’s early nod to world literature (1908–1909) intimates the challenge of making literary particularity heard in the homogenizing harmonies of a world dominated by English. That problem persists in his account of a 1926 meeting with the Bengali polymath Rabindranath Tagore and in an essay of 1928 inspired by that meeting: one of the first manifestos of al-adab al-ʿālamī (world literature) in Arabic, predating the 1936 appearance of al-adab al-muqāran (comparative literature). While Abū Shādī lauds Tagore’s refusal to compare literatures East and West and insistence on the spiritual unity of all literatures, his struggles to articulate a world in which harmony is not an alibi for hierarchy suggest that neither comparative literature nor its would-be leveler – world literature – can shed the haunting specter of inequality.

In: Journal of World Literature

Abstract

Scholarship on production of cultural goods highlights translation of literary works as a key mechanism of cultural circulation. This article rethinks circulation beyond translation. It argues that changes in aesthetic labels applied to cultural goods can prompt a scale shifting that favors the diffusion of these goods beyond their vernacular space of circulation. This article studies the transnational success of the label literatura latinoamericana, which from the 1960s onward gained acceptance in Spanish, English, French, and other languages as the label that best captured the region’s literary uniqueness. This change in aesthetic labeling made it possible for literatura latinoamericana to enter world literature and for literary works such as One Hundred Years of Solitude to circulate at an unprecedented scale, as international bestsellers and classics. The article finds that aesthetic labeling – a “cultural kind” in the arts – is a far-reaching and understudied mechanism in cultural production and circulation.

In: Journal of World Literature
Author:

Abstract

The Rings of Saturn and other works by W.G. Sebald are discussed in conjunction with Landscape of Farewell, by Australian novelist Alex Miller, extending Aimé Césaire’s choc-en-retour, or “boomerang effect,” and following Michael Rothberg’s articulation of “Multidimensional Memory,” to inform a comparative, transcontinental analysis of specific aftershocks of colonialism. Contexts include contemporary Brussels, Indigenous Australia and the eroded coast of East Anglia. The effects of competing and complementary trajectories that arise from postcolonial memory, the presence of found books, following Homi Bhabha, and the intertextual presences of Joseph Conrad and explorer Ludwig Leichhardt, are discussed. The role of poesis articulated by an uncertain narrator against a background of exploitation and genocide is evaluated, as well as the effects of colonial activity on the landscape itself. In conclusion, the article considers the role of literature in effecting reconciliation and restitution.

In: Journal of World Literature

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.

In: Journal of World Literature

Abstract

This whimsical dialogue explores some avant-garde alternatives to current normative thinking prevailing in global translation studies, especially perhaps the visible-invisible, foreignization-domestication, and national-world literature binaries. It challenges the prevailing idea that a submissive, self-abnegating translatorial stance aims at fluency on target-cultural terms, so that target readers will feel at home in the translation, because it challenges none of their expectations; its counterstance suggests that “ninja invisibility” can be mobilized to aggravate target readers by, as Boris Groys put it, “using their nominal identities as ready-mades—and [by] organiz[ing] a complicated play with them.” The dialogue ends with a full fifth English translation of Walter Benjamin’s famous 1923 essay on the task of the translator, following the Hölderlinian avant-garde strategy for which Benjamin himself advocated.

In: Avant-Garde Translation
Author:

This paper examines the ways in which Arabic literature has been introduced into world literature anthologies. Taking The Longman Anthology of World Literature as a case study, the paper questions the politics of the inclusions and exclusions of Arabic literature in the anthology. Pertinent to the discussion is to ponder the nature of Arabic literature that “makes it” into the anthology. In addition, the paper will demonstrate how the anthology in fact obscures, rather than illuminates, major historical trajectories of Arabic literature. The complexity of Arabic literature, its highly self-reflexive texts, and its internal developments throughout history beg for a different approach that, I argue, this world literature anthology is lacking. Equally significant, The Longman recycles several common orientalist clichés about Arabic literature, the most important of which is that there is no Arabic literature worthy of inclusion in the three volumes of the anthology spanning the thirteenth-nineteenth centuries. As for the pieces that are included, the paper will reflect on the size and space they are offered, arguing that these are not arbitrary choices, but rather indicative of how a non-Western literary tradition is appropriated into a world literature anthology.

In: Journal of World Literature
Author:

Abstract

This article reads the introductions of two anthologies of Harlem Renaissance poetry published in the Weimar Republic in 1929 and 1932 respectively. Taking into account the history of the concept of Volk and its changing connotations in the interwar years, I argue that both editors problematically and subversively interpret the Harlem Renaissance as an American Volk tradition for their German readers. I contend that this act of interpretation questions and critiques the limits of not only the linguistic meaning of Volk, but also the limits of the concept of political belonging that the word represents in the German inter-war years. The article argues, concomitantly, for closer attention to anthologies of world literature and the paratexts of translations.

In: Journal of World Literature

This article focuses on one aspect of the impact of the Arabian Nights on Western literature that has been rarely addressed, namely its impact on modernism. Modernism is almost always viewed as a quintessentially European movement, self-generated between the first and second World Wars. From there it spread to the rest of the world. Despite its global diffusion, the imperial project has remained to be viewed in terms of the impact of the colonial powers over the colonized. My contention is that the cultural traffic was not one-way, but two-way. By considering the cultural traffic as going two ways, we instil an understanding of Modernism as a World Movement and recognize the constitutive part that Arabic poetics played in European Modernism. This article thus detects how the narrative logic of the most famous Arabian tales structured the works of the two pillars of High Modernism, Marcel Proust and James Joyce.

In: Journal of World Literature

This article takes a “genealogical” approach to the concept of minor literature. It argues that the concept of minor literature originated with the idea of “triple ghetto” that emerged in the Prague Czech-German-Jewish environment and was applied to explain the work of Kafka and his fellow Prague writers. Minor literature is the most famous application of the “triple ghetto” concept. A close reconsideration of Kafka’s German/Czech/Jewish Prague reveals interesting relations among several “small,” “minor” and “ultraminor” literatures, relationships that Deleuze and Guattari overlooked. The relationships between various literary entities in Prague extend beyond the binary positioning of “minor” and “major” inherent in the concept of minor literature. In addition to Kafka’s relationship to German literature, we need to consider Kafka’s relationship to the “small” Czech literature, the marginal “ultraminor” German and German Jewish and Czech Jewish literatures of his times, and perhaps most interestingly, to writers who were equally at home in German and Czech.

In: Journal of World Literature
In: Journal of World Literature