[csaa-forum] Seminars on the Transnational at UNSW: On ‘World Literature’ as an Ideal Concept, Ben Etherington, Wed 14th Sept, 5pm

Laetitia Nanquette l.nanquette at unsw.edu.au
Tue Aug 30 12:00:13 ACST 2016

Seminars on the Transnational: On ‘World Literature’ as an Ideal Concept
14 Sep 2016, 5pm - 6:30pm
Dr Ben Etherington, Western Sydney University
UNSW, Room G17, Robert Webster Building

That the concept of ‘world literature’ entails a problem of scale has been widely discussed. Most methodological responses to this problem have been committed to overcoming it; whether this be through pursuing mega-data approaches, reflecting on the totality of relations within and between national spheres, placing the focus on translation and circulation, or orienting the concept to the political economy of the modern world-system. All implicitly share a certainty, however, that ‘world literature’ has some kind of empirical existence. The argument of this paper is that world literature is an ideal concept that yet awaits realisation. The actuality of world literature could only be an established fact if, intuitively, the general (world literature) and the particular (literary works) were unified; which is to say that the totality would have achieved an empirical existence only if the literary acts encompassed by the term could be said cumulatively to produce ‘world literature’. The reason this has not come about is that literature is opposed that which presages world literature: the totalisation of exchange value. The opposition to the formation of commerce-led globalised literature, though, is shared by literary communities across the globe. Literary practice cannot help but to enact itself in relation to this notional space of world literature, binding disparate literary actors. This might be the basis for a paradoxical notion of world literature as: ‘that literature which negates globalised literature’. The latter part of my paper will be devoted to discussing the phenomenon of literary primitivism as an early (perhaps even inaugurating?) instance of world literature thought of in this paradoxical way.

Ben Etherington is a lecturer in postcolonial and world literary studies at Western Sydney University in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts, and is also a member of the Writing and Society Research Centre.

All are very welcome to the seminar. There is no need to register. For enquiries: l.nanquette at unsw.edu.au<mailto:l.nanquette at unsw.edu.au>

Robert Webster Building is located mid-way off the UNSW main walkway. Map Reference G14. Room G17 is located on the ground floor.


Dr Laetitia Nanquette,
Lecturer and Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow,
School of Arts and Media,
University of New South Wales, Sydney
+61 (2) 9385 7792

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