Meanwhile: Literature in an Expanded Field
There is an analogy between the borders that separate nations and those that separate disciplines. In this contribution, I examine that analogy. The result is a revisioning of my obligation to earn “expertise” as a literary scholar. Instead, I ask questions to the literary text that, by virtue of my Western training, I cannot understand. The novel that guides my reflections on nation(alism) and literature as an epistemological and philosophical tool is Ces fruits si doux de l’arbre à pain by the Congolese author Tchicaya U Tam’si. This novel, written in a French I know but with inflections I don’t know, raises issues of justice and our presumption to judge. The yielding and pulling between the novel and me as reader constitutes the fluctuating terrain of Benedict Anderson’s conjunction “meanwhile” that creates nations by means of simultaneity. Today, this conjunction, particularly relevant because of electronic communications, creates new communities, on which the nation-state has no bearing. Or does it?