Debating World Literature

Publisher: Verso
In the continuing debates about the cultural dimensions of globalization, the question of ‘literature’ has been something of a poor relation. This volume seeks to redress the balance. It takes as its starting point Goethe’s idea of Weltliteratur, from which it then travels out to various parts of the globe at different historical junctures. Among its many concerns are the legacies of Goethe’s idea, variable understandings of the term ‘literature’ itself, cross-cultural encounters, the nature of ‘small literatures’, and the cultural politics of literary genres. With contributions from many of the leading voices in the field, Debating World Literature seeks to transcend the pieties and simplifications of polemic in a search for the complexity embodied in the linking of the two terms ‘world’ and ‘literature’.


“Quite what Weltliteratur meant (to Goethe and his age) and what it means (or might mean) to us are still very live issues, if only for the reason that ‘globalization’, if it exits at all, is not a state of a process, something still in the making. Goethe’s idea was itself cast in the form of a thought-experiment, a groping reach for a barely glimpsed future. ... By the same token, what we make of it today is necessarily open to indefinitely extended reflection and debate.”—Christopher Prendergast