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In: Sprache und Literatur
In: Ethik des Verstehens
In: Athenäum Jahrbuch der Friedrich Schlegel-Gesellschaft
In: Antike-Philologie-Romantik
In: Sprache und Literatur


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.”

In: Journal of World Literature