Graduate Readings: World Systems Theory and the Asian Anglophone Novel
Arrighi, Giovanni: The Long Twentieth Century; Boltanski, Luc and Chapiello, Eve: The New Spirit of Capitalism; Desai, Radhika: Geopolitical Economy; Duncan, Richard: The Dollar Crisis; Harvey, David: The New Imperialism; Moore, Jason: Capitalism in the Web of Life; Wallerstein, Immanuel: The Essential Wallerstein
Other Readings and Media
World literature theories that have borrowed from the work of Immanuel Wallerstein on early capitalism to conceptualize the dynamics of literary centers and peripheries have difficulty accounting for the Asian Anglophone novel, an ascendant form of late capitalism. Since the early 1970s, the prominent manufacturing role played by Asian economies within the capitalist world system has led scholars to argue either that the center of global hegemony has now shifted East or that the reliance on a floating dollar as the world’s currency has ensnared Asia in a new kind of financialized, structural dependency. This same period sees the rise of the Asian Anglophone novel as a medium through which Asian writers have experimented with diverse fictional modes of representing problems of sovereignty, identity and alternative modernity in a globalized economy. We’ll immerse ourselves in world systems theory debates about the nature of the “long downturn” since the early 70s (Arrighi, Harvey, Brenner, Wallerstein, Radhika Desai, Richard Duncan, etc.), and bring these to bear on the various positions held by world literature and anti-world literature theorists (Casanova, Moretti, Schwartz, Spivak, Jameson, the Warwick Collective, etc.). Further readings on the temporal implications of today’s credit economy, debates between proponents of immaterial labor versus those of Value Form Marxism, the reemergence of social reproduction feminism, theories of race and surplus populations, and the question of “anthropocene or capitalocene?” will be assigned as needed, depending on the interests of the group and the course’s eventual literary foci. The course’s literary component will consist of one work chosen from among 3-4 major novelists each (Amitav Ghosh, Han Ong, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ha Jin, Maxine Hong Kingston, Amit Chaudhuri, Chang Rae Lee, Xu Xi, Ninotchka Rosca are likely contenders for the final 3-4). Besides graduate students who may be specifically interested in the field of Asian Anglophone literature, this course would be useful to those interested in histories and theories of transnational capitalism since the 1970s and in historical materialist approaches to race, gender, empire and ecology. If you are a literature student who wants to get a grip on political economy and how to think about economic mediations of culture, this is a good course for you.
This course satisfies the Group 5 (Twentieth Century) or Group 6 (Non-historical) requirement (for English Department graduate students). It also fulfills a CORE requirement in the Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory (240).
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