As early as 1827 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe declared that the “The epoch of world literature is at hand, and everyone must strive to hasten its approach.” Some twenty years later, in The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx would echo this sentiment when he too pronounced that the era of world literature had finally arrived. And yet, the specter of world literature continues to haunt the field of literary studies provoking debates that are assuming increasing urgency today.
This course examines the politics of world literature as they relate to our contemporary globalizing world. What is the relationship between world literature and the development of the nation and to internationalism? How does world literature relate to discourses of modernity and conditions of globalization? By reading a range of critical and literary texts, we will assess how world literature negotiates questions concerning canonicity, translation, and (un)translatability. And we will evaluate its relation to various institutional and disciplinary formations including national languages and literature, comparative literature, translation studies, postcolonial studies, and the rise of the digital humanities. In addition to reading key works of theory, we will also consider several literary texts to see how they engage and challenge such theories. Authors may include but are not limited to: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Karl Marx, Erich Auerbach, Jean-Luc Nancy, Emily Apter, David Damrosch, Homi Bhabha, Franco Moretti, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Wai Chee Dimock, Pascale Casanova, Fredric Jameson, Aijaz Ahmad, Gilles Deleuze, Roberto Schwarz, Gayatri Spivak, and Pheng Cheah.