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Intellectual Captivity

Literary Theory, World Literature, and the Ethics of Interpretation

Chen Bar-Itzhak


This essay concerns the unequal distribution of epistemic capital in the academic field of World Literature and calls for an epistemic shift: a broadening of our theoretical canon and the epistemologies through which we read and interpret world literature. First, this epistemic inequality is discussed through a sociological examination of the “world republic of literary theory,” addressing the limits of circulation of literary epistemologies. The current situation, it is argued, creates an “intellectual captivity,” the ethical and political implications of which are demonstrated through a close reading of the acts of reading world literature performed by scholars at the center of the field. A few possible solutions are then suggested, drawing on recent developments in anthropology, allowing for a redistribution of epistemic capital within the discipline of World Literature: awareness of positionality, reflexivity as method, promotion of marginal scholarship, and a focus on “points of interaction.”

(Dis)Counting Languages

Between Hugó Meltzl and Liviu Rebreanu

Anca Parvulescu and Manuela Boatcă


The essay analyzes the interglottism at work in Liviu Rebreanu’s novel Ion (1920) against the polyglottism theorized and performed editorially by the first Comparative Literature journal (ACLU), which it positions against the background of post-1867 Austro-Hungarian imperial policies for the use of languages.

The Uneven Travels of World Literature

On Creole and Untranslatability in Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners and Miriam Mandelkow’s Die Taugenichtse

Birgit Neumann


The essay engages with possibilities of translating Creole in Anglophone world literatures and investigates the socio-political frames within which translations occur. It has been argued that it is impossible to translate, read and understand the connotations of Creole without their historical and cultural contexts, from which these linguistic varieties are derived and which they conversely help produce. Texts thriving on Creole, such as Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners, are highly context-sensitive and call for close, historically and locally grounded readings. The translation and translatability of Creole begs crucial questions concerning the common understanding of world literature as travelling texts. The essay discusses these questions with an eye to the role of English as a global literary vernacular, before moving on to examine Miriam Mandelkow’s recent German translation of Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners.

Shaden M. Tageldin


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.

Blaž Zabel


This article discusses the work of the early Irish comparatists Hutcheson Macaulay Posnett, who in 1886 published the first monograph in English in comparative literature. By bringing into discussion Posnett’s lesser-known journalistic publications on politics, the essay argues that his comparative project was importantly determined by the contemporary challenges of British imperial politics and by his own position in the British Empire. The article investigates several aspects of Posnett’s work in the context of British colonialism: his understanding of literature and literary criticism, his perception of the English and French systems of national literature, and his understanding of world literature and classical literature. Recognising the imperial and colonial context of Comparative Literature additionally highlights the development of literary comparisons, which have marked subsequent discussions in the discipline.

Intersecting Imperialisms

The Rise and Fall of Empires in Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Ben Holgate


Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North (2013), which features the Thai-Burma “Death Railway” in World War Two, depicts a complex web of imperial regimes that converge and clash in the mid-twentieth century. The protagonist is an Australian soldier effectively fighting for his country’s former colonizer, Britain, which is losing its empire to Japan. I build on Laura Doyle’s concept of “inter-imperiality” to explore how the novel illuminates the historical process of imperial factors intersecting at multiple levels, from the geopolitical and economic to the personal and cultural. The novel demonstrates how inter-imperial identities challenge simple binary models of imperialism, and how so-called national literatures are produced in a world context. This is evident in Flanagan’s intertextual homage to classical Japanese author Matsuo Bashō. The novel also highlights how world literature discourse ought to take into account temporal and ethicopolitical factors (Pheng Cheah), suggesting an overlap with postcolonial studies.

Multilingual Novel

Anticlimax and the Real of World Literature

Matylda Figlerowicz


This article proposes a model of world literature based on multilingualism, rather than translation or a series of monolingualisms. It analyzes three novels, positioned in uneven relationships to world literature: Ramon Saizarbitoria’s Hamaika pauso (Basque; Countless steps, 1995), Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 (Spanish; 2004), and Sol Ceh Moo’s Sujuy k’iin (Mayan; Unspoiled day, 2011). They can all be read as multilingual, and despite the differences of their contexts and the particular ways in which different languages intertwine in them, anticlimactic forms are an aesthetic solution they share. The model of world literature informed by this anticlimactic multilingualism could be called the Real of world literature, since it points to the traumatic core of world literature that disrupts the possibility of systematizing its literatures in a holistic structure.

Eralda L. Lameborshi


The Ottoman Empire shaped much of the Mediterranean world and yet, postcolonial scholarship has developed very few tools that engage with it as a pre-modern and pre-capitalist empire. Given its influence, it is necessary to understand the Ottoman Empire as a colonial force, especially in literatures that represent its reign. Southeastern European literature is ripe for such analysis as it seeks to understand the Ottoman legacy in Southeastern Europe, and to account for the ways in which the Ottoman Empire’s imperial model created worlds within worlds, where regions not located in the imperial center were not peripheries but provincial centers. The works of Ivo Andrić, Ismail Kadare, and Meša Selimović fictionalize history in an attempt to show how history itself happens in these provincial centers. Audiences become aware of the Ottoman presence as a droning hum in the background with a lasting cultural, linguistic, and religious legacy.

Vedran Ćatović


This study situates the works of Ivo Andrić at the intersection of world literature and postcolonial studies. It argues that, rather than being opposed as two mutually exclusive critical paradigms, the two need to be tactfully combined in order to account for the artist’s treatment of the prolonged subjugation undergone by the former Ottoman province of Bosnia. Two contradictory trends are observed. Andrić represents Bosnian small towns as places of symbolic resistance and perseverance. His local themes and language undermine the hegemonic presence of the empire, and invite a reading through a postcolonial lens. At the same time, a strong cosmopolitan current runs through the same narratives, and shows a paradoxical urge of the artist to extend his local setting into the global and intercultural spheres. Andrić stages the world as a multifarious and enigmatic whole – a viewpoint that embraces world literature as its aesthetic and political shrine.

Pheng Cheah and David Damrosch


The following is an edited transcript of a presentation by Pheng Cheah on his book What Is a World? On Postcolonial Literature as World Literature, followed by a discussion with David Damrosch, with selections from the question and answer period. The event took place on the opening day of the July 2018 session of the Institute of World Literature, hosted by Professor Mitsuyoshi Numano and the Department of Contemporary Literary Studies at the University of Tokyo.

Bhavya Tiwari and David Damrosch

Whirls of Faith and Fancy

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

Verena Laschinger


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


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


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


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


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.

Dale Tracy


Cloud Atlas takes the form of what Lawrence Buell calls an observer-hero narrative, in which an observer has difficulty representing and interpreting a hero’s actions. While Cloud Atlas structurally magnifies this problem over its multiple stories, its subversion of genre and convention suggests a reading strategy through which one might believe in another’s effective action, despite the accepted knowledge and limiting rules of the systems in which action might occur. The novel’s principle of symmetry, that an observer’s belief in a hero’s action bolsters the action’s effects, suggests the significance of what I call proximate observation – observation founded in an appropriate degree of connection. Proximate observation allows for the belief in another’s story, belief that is necessary for change. The implications for a text, the world, or world literature are the same: proximate reading strategies foreground the need for belief in possibilities one does not already know.

World Literatures, Cosmopolitan Publics

Welcoming the PEN Club to Buenos Aires in 1936

Mónica Szurmuk and Fernando Degiovanni


In this article we use the rich sources provided by the press coverage of the 1936 Congress of the PEN Club in Buenos Aires to examine international interactions around literature in times of violence and censorship. We contend that the Congress allows for a reading of the different worlds of literature beyond the traditional categories of text, reader, writer and critic. Our study moves away from canonical authors and literature as an institution to focus on World Literature as a form of experience. We focus on the producers and consumers of literature as embodied multilingual presences and thereby provide a more nuanced understanding of World Literature. Bruce Robbins’s notion of “cosmopolitanisms from below” allows us to rethink the notion of World Literature within the framework of a “lived” cosmopolitanism deployed at a time of political danger.

Worlds of Advice

Going Places with Nazir Ahmad

Soofia Siddique


This article situates the nineteenth-century Urdu writer Nazir Ahmad’s Chand Pand as a piece of advice literature on an Arabic-Persian continuum, and equally a text of its time and place. Linguistic features of its discourse show that, as a self-conscious performance of the possibilities of Urdu, it imparts culturally resonant ways of inhabiting a multifarious world, and inscribes an expansive and inclusive view of culture. In particular, the narrative organization of the focal section “A Brief Account of the World” is strongly evocative of a conceptual organization of the world by concentric circles that is comparable to the view of human sociality invoked by the tenth-eleventh century Persian ethicist Miskawayh and illuminates the location of Nazir Ahmad’s text in the continuum of ethics (akhlaq) literature. At the same time, beside these signs of literary cosmopolitanism, I argue that Nazir Ahmad’s account of the world stakes a claim for the irreducible particularity of places and their associated textures of life, and offers a view of the world that supports “place-based thinking or imagination” (Dirlik) as opposed to the potentially obfuscating abstraction of globalized “space.”

Mélanie Bourlet


This article explores the relationship between cosmopolitanism and nationalism through the example of a transnational literature written in an African language, Pulaar, considered from a multi-located perspective. It seeks to understand to what extent a linguistically based transnational literary nationalism may be considered a form of “bottom-up cosmopolitanism” (Appadurai) that carries social aspirations. In the context of globalization, movements of linguistic revitalisation continue to grow and language has become a veritable tool for social action. This essay argues that, from a methodological standpoint, a more focused attention to the local and to translocal ties allows us to bring to light the connectivity of literature and its tendency to challenge institutionalized global literary geographies.

Ethiopian Intellectual History and the Global

Käbbädä Mikael’s Geographies of Belonging

Sara Marzagora


Through the literary and historiographical works written by Ethiopian intellectual Käbbädä Mikael in the 1940s and 1950s, this article problematizes the concept of the “world” in world literature. In some theories of world literature, the world is presented as a static a priori, a self-evident spatial referent, a background setting for literary activities. Contrary to this objectivist frame, I propose instead to look at the world as a performative category, and to conceive world literature as a study of worldmaking processes. Käbbädä Mikael’s worldmaking attempted to break into the Eurocentric exclusivity of hegemonic narratives of modernity, jostling for recognition within modernization theory but also, at the same time, activating polycentric connections along oblique South-South networks. For him, the world was not a cosmopolitan project, but a pool of symbolic resources from which to draw in building a better future for Ethiopia.

Francesca Orsini and Laetitia Zecchini

Laetitia Zecchini


This essay explores two different ways by which ideas and “problems” of the “world,” “India,” “Indian literature,” and “world literature” were experienced, discussed, translated, imagined and remade in specific spaces like Bombay or journals such as The Indian PEN. I focus on one relatively formalized organization, the PEN All-India Centre, which was founded in Bombay in 1933 as the Indian branch of International PEN, and on a contemporary poet, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, and the informal network of writers and artists close to him. Through the widely different agendas, practices, concerns, contexts and forms of writer collectivization which I outline in this essay, the PEN All-India Centre in the 1940s and 1950s, and the Bombay poets of the 1960s did try to eat the corners of the world and of world literature away. They aimed to break on the world stage, reclaimed an “India” that included what was non-Indian, and put forward, through translation and a cut-and-paste “collation” of the world and world literature, an idea of internationalism and interconnectedness where provincialism was the enemy. By discussing the situated, critical, and imaginative processes of reworlding that were at stake, and the struggles they gave rise to in the case of the PEN All-India Centre, I explore how these writers also put forward defiant practices of cosmopolitanism that reallocated the Eastern and the Western, the peripheral and the significant.

Peter D. McDonald


Less concerned with the concept of World Literature than with the promise and perils of conceptualization, this essay considers what experiencing some forms of writing as world literature might involve. Using J.M. Coetzee’s In the Heart of the Country (1977) as an illustrative example, it addresses questions of circulation, translation, writing systems, book history, and literary geography in the context of recent academic debates about world literary studies. It concludes by revisiting Rabindranath Tagore’s landmark 1907 essay “World Literature,” arguing that it remains an indispensable guide to experiential reading and anti-conceptual thinking.

Francesca Orsini


“For any given observer,” David Damrosch argued in What is World Literature?, “even a genuinely global perspective remains a perspective from somewhere, and global patterns of the circulation of world literature take shape in their local manifestations.” Within world-system approaches that fix centres, peripheries and semiperipheries, or with approaches that consider world literature only that which circulates transnationally or “globally,” the relativizing import of this important insight remains inert or gets forgotten. As Indian editors and writers in the early decades of the twentieth century undertook more translations of foreign works and discussed the relationship between India and the world, overlapping understandings of world literature emerged in the Indian literary field. This essay explores three different visions of world literature from the same region and period but in different languages – English, Hindi, and Urdu – highlighting their different impulses, contexts, approaches, and outcomes in order to refine our notion of location. And whereas much of the recent debate and activities around world literature has revolved around the curriculum or around publishers’ series and anthologies, in the Indian case exposure to and discussion of literature from other parts of the world took largely place in the pages of periodicals.

Xavier Garnier


Probably because of its relationship with a coastal culture, Swahili literature seems very aware of its position in the world. Through a reading of Swahili poems and novels across a range of genres, this paper explores the ways in which Swahili writers have engaged in a dialogue with the whole world, from the colonial period to the contemporary era. The evolution of well-identified literary forms such as epic poetry, ethnographic novel or crime novel will also pave the way for identifying the specificities of a Swahili cosmopolitanism anxious to cultivate an art of living in the age of a kind of globalization whose effects are often harshly felt at the local level. Because it has long developed an awareness of the world, Swahili literature has often pioneered the invention of literary forms that are able to translate locally the movements of the world.

Anthologizing Race

Folk, Volk and Untranslation in the Weimar Republic

Anna Muenchrath


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.

Taha Hussein

Translator May Hawas

Jernej Habjan


The first Slovenian novel is yet to be read in a way that is both comparative and sociological. For while Slovenian studies treats the emergence of the Slovenian novel sociologically but not comparatively, comparative literature studies views it comparatively yet not sociologically. This gap can be filled by the perspective of the literary world-system. Moreover, this viewpoint can subtilize the thesis of Slovenian studies that the belatedness of the Slovenian novel is part of the belatedness of the Slovenian bourgeoisie as well as the comparatist thesis that the Slovenian novel became possible only after the end of the possibility of the traditional European novel. The world-systemic approach can grasp this belatedness as a social fact that speaks less of the Slovenian novel’s essence than of the structural relations between Slovenian culture and its European social environment.

Theo D’haen

In Quest of Ourselves

A Highly Important Matter

Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar

Translator Evren Akaltun and Trevor Hope

Hermann Hesse

Translator B. Venkat Mani

Zhongshu Qian

Translator Longxi Zhang

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis

Translator Robert Patrick Newcomb

Translator Ksenija Vraneš and Branko Vraneš

Matthias Buschmeier


This article reviews attempts to define histories of world literature during the late 19th and first half of the 20th century. It submits that “World Literature” and national philology are two sides of the same coin, in that they serve to produce specific national identities and legitimize colonial hegemonic practices. Astonishingly, some patterns of these early histories of world literature can still be observed in contemporary theoretical debates on the subject. Thus, it is argued that, rather than dismissing this heritage of Western historiography (with or without condemnation), we should strive seriously to come up with alternative histories, wherein “West” is no longer treated as synonymous with “world,” and vice versa. The West should be seen as just one form of society and culture among the many others, all of which are due consideration when invoking the term “world.”

ʿAbd al-Rahman Munif

Translator Sonja Mejcher-Atassi and Iman Al Kaisy

Heterographics as a Literary Device

Auditory, Visual, and Cultural Features

Helena Bodin


Heterographics (“other lettering”) refers to the use of two scripts in one text or a translation of a text from one script to another. How might the occasional use of heterographics in literary texts highlight issues of cultural diversity? Drawing on intermedial theory and studies of literary multilingualism, literary translation, and pluriliteracies, this article examines various functions of heterographics in selected contemporary literary texts. Examples of embedded Greek, Chinese, Cyrillic, and Arabic script are analysed in works published in Swedish, French, and English between 2004 and 2015, selected because they thematise cultural diversity and linguistic boundaries. The conclusion is that heterographic devices emphasise the heteromediality of literary texts, thereby heightening readers’ awareness of the visual-spatial features of literary texts, as well as of the materiality of scripts. Heterographics influence readers’ experiences of cultural affinity or alterity, that is, of inclusion or exclusion, depending on their access to practices of pluriliteracies.


The Theory Deficit in Translingual Studies

Michael Boyden and Eugenia Kelbert

Postvernacular Prufrock

Isaac Rosenfeld and Saul Bellow’s Yiddish “Translation” of T.S. Eliot’s Modernism

Michael Boyden


This article offers an explorative reading of a parodic Yiddish rendition of T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” entitled “Der shir hashirim fun Mendl Pumshtok” that was composed by Isaac Rosenfeld and Saul Bellow during their student years in Chicago. The article argues that, by measuring themselves against the main representative of high modernism and by giving a markedly ethnic inflection to Eliot’s poem, Brooks and Rosenfeld attempted to transcend the assumed provincialism of their situation and elbow their way into the American literary canon. More generally, the article suggests that parodic “translations” of this kind, by highlighting the postvernacular dimension of literary language (Shandler), extend the purview of translingual studies by valuing performativity, orality, and collaboration over and against competency as defining elements of linguistic border crossing in an age that has sometimes too hastily been characterized as post-national or post-Romantic. The article thus points to the relevance of what the author calls literary amphilingualism, a prevalent but understudied phenomenon in translingual studies.

Steven G. Kellman


The articles in this special issue on Literary Translingualism by Helgesson and Kullberg, Robinson, Boyden, and Bodin all insist on language as fluid and non-discrete. What Boyden calls “amphilingualism” is a useful way to describe the porousness of languages. These and other scholars of translingualism are at odds with the ascendant nativism that is enforcing boundaries between nations and languages. Translations further problematize the sovereignty of language and national culture, and they are crucial to the process of elevating a text in the global hypercanon. What Bodin calls “heterographics,” the coexistence of separate scripts within a single text, is a useful extension of literary translingualism.

Translating a Translingual Tongue

Yoko Tawada, Chantal Wright, and the World

Douglas Robinson


The paper examines Chantal Wright’s “experimental” English translation of Yoko Tawada’s “Porträt einer Zunge” as Portrait of a Tongue in terms of the interplay between translinguality and translationality, especially in terms of what Deleuze and Guattari call “majoritizing” and “minoritizing” impulses in literature, and what David Damrosch calls “hypercanonization” and “countercanonization.” The goal is to explore not so much whether Tawada gains or loses in Wright’s translation, as whether any gains in translation tend to transmajoritize and so to hypercanonize her or to transminoritize and so to countercanonize her.

Translingual Events

World Literature and the Making of Language

Stefan Helgesson and Christina Kullberg


This article outlines a theory of world literary reading that takes language and the making of boundaries between languages as its point of departure. A consequence of our discussion is that world literature can be explored as uneven translingual events that make linguistic tensions manifest either at the micro level of the individual text or at the macro level of publication and circulation—or both. Two case studies exemplify this. The first concerns an episode in the institutionalization of Shakespeare as a global canonical figure in 1916, with a specific focus on the South African writer Sol Plaatje’s Setswana contribution to A Book of Homage to Shakespeare. The second case discusses how Edwidge Danticat’s novel The Farming of Bones (1998) evokes the bodily and affective charge of boundary-making by troubling the border between Haitian and Dominican speech.

Criminal Logistics

Globalization, Containerization and Tragedy in Scandinavian Crime Fiction

Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen

This article investigates how globalized crime fiction is entangled in the infrastructural system of containerization and the production of our global age. My main examples are two widely circulated Danish contributions, namely Peter Høeg’s hybrid crime novel, Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow (1992), and the TV-crime series, The Killing III (2012). Generally considered as contained by the regional moniker of “Nordic noir” these crime narratives can be seen to explore global “criminal logistics” (e.g. transportation networks, containerization, colonial administration, drugs and human trafficking, global capitalism) and their impact on the smaller local scales of states, families and victimized children. Conversely, with reference to David Simon’s The Wire (2002–8), the article considers how this “scale bending” between the local and the global is reproduced in the “down-sizing” of Ancient Greek myths and tragedies into the briefest but also most visible of citations on the hull of the ships at the centre of these transnational Danish crime narratives.

Narve Fulsås and Tore Rem

One of the major renewals in the history of drama is Henrik Ibsen’s “modern tragedy” of the 1880s and 1890s. Since Ibsen’s own time, this renewal has been seen as an achievement accomplished in spite, rather than because, of Ibsen’s Norwegian and Scandinavian contexts of origin. His origins have consistently been associated with provinciality, backwardness and restrictions to be overcome, and his European “exile” has been seen as the great liberating turning point of his career. We will, on the contrary, argue that throughout his career Ibsen belonged to Scandinavian literature and that his trajectory was fundamentally conditioned and shaped by what happened in the intersection between literature, culture and politics in Scandinavia. In particular, we highlight the continued association and closeness between literature and theatre, the contested language issue in Norway, the superimposition of literary and political cleavages and dynamics as well as the transitory stage of copyright.

Mads Rosendahl Thomsen

Editor-in-Chief David Damrosch, Theo D'Haen, Ronit Ricci and Longxi Zhang

The Journal of World Literature (JWL) aspires to bring together scholars interested in developing the concept of World Literature, and to provide the most suitable environment for contributions from all the world’s literary traditions. It creates a forum for re-visiting global literary heritages, discovering valuable works that have been undeservedly ignored, and introducing aspects of the transnational global dissemination of literature, with translation as a focus. The journal welcomes submissions that can concurrently imagine any literary tradition, in any language, moving beyond national frames to simultaneously discuss and develop the cosmopolitan threads of a variety of literary traditions. It also welcomes contributions from scholars of different research backgrounds working collaboratively as well as from group research projects interested in showcasing their findings, in order to meet the challenge of a wider and deeper discussion of literature’s networks.

The editorial board of the JWL has begun accepting submissions for open-call issues.

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Per Thomas Andersen

The six-volume novel, My Struggle (2009–2011), by the Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard has been received with great enthusiasm in many parts of the world. This article analyzes the novel and its reception from the historical perspective of traditional honor culture coming to an end in some late modern welfare states. Focusing on shame and dishonor, the article situates the autobiographical project in a contemporary moment granting the author the freedom to write himself out of traditional honor groups and into new “floating” honor groups, like that of the celebrities of our time.

Local Labour, Cosmopolitan Toil

Geo-Cultural Dynamics in Swedish Working-Class Fiction

Paul Tenngart

In the renowned and epoch-making working-class novels from the Swedish 1930s, claims for social and economic justice reflect a local struggle with distinctly national and cosmopolitan significance. Generally, these novels can be described as having local characters and settings, national narrative perspectives, and cosmopolitan plots, but a closer look reveals a much more varied picture. There is, in fact, no general tendency of geo-cultural dynamics in this historically distinct literary current. When the novels are translated into English, however, a more distinct pattern occurs: regional embeddedness is considerably weakened in the translation process, leaving room for much stronger national ties and a more extensive cosmopolitan significance.

Mediating the North in Crime Fiction

Merging the Vernacular Place with a Cosmopolitan Imaginary

Louise Nilsson

The multifaceted idea of the north is deeply embedded in literary and visual culture. This culturally forged and globally disseminated idea embraces the narratives of fear, as well elements of the supernatural and fantastic, political dimensions or specific topographies. By departing from the Nordic Noir subgenre, a globally dispersed literary genre, this article investigates how the depiction of local and global place creates an imaginary, which is in turn bound up with a broader notion of the north as an ostensible “elsewhere.” The article argues that the Nordic Noir’s foreign allure and overwhelming success rests upon a culturally forged idea of the north, found worldwide in various cultural expressions such as myths, folklore, fairy tales, literature, and contemporary cinema and trails centuries back in cultural history worldwide.

Håkan Möller

Barabbas (1950) and the Nobel Prize of 1951 made Pär Lagerkvist—for a while—world-famous. In this article, I give an account of what the rapid and considerable success of Barabbas involved and how this commercial success also considerably increased Lagerkvist’s chances of winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. His name had already been mentioned several years running, but it took courage to award the prize yet again to a Scandinavian writer, let alone to a Swede who was also one of the Swedish Academy’s own members. How this problem affected the preliminary discussions, together with reactions in the press, and how the members of the Swedish Academy’s Nobel committee argued round this sensitive question, are subjected to a comprehensive analysis.

Precarious Worlds

Danish Colonialism and World Literature

Mads Anders Baggesgaard

The role played by Denmark in the triangular slave trade and colonial chattel slavery is rarely part of the tale told about Danish literature. This article investigates the reflections of this history in Denmark and discusses how this particular colonial history and its relationship to literature can be understood on the basis of readings of three texts from Denmark and its former colony St. Thomas. The central thesis is that exactly because of the peripheral and precarious nature of the Danish colonial endeavour in relation to larger colonial systems, it may actually be possible to reflect on sides of the colonial history that is often left out of sight.