English 250

Research Seminars: Theories of the World and World Literature from Goethe to the Present

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2010 Cheah, Pheng
T 3:30 - 6:30 7415 Dwinelle

Other Readings and Media

Hegel,  G.W.F.: Lectures on the Philosophy of World History: Introduction ; Marx, K., and Engels, F.: Manifesto of the Communist Party ; Marx, K., and Engels, F.: The German Ideology; Arendt, H.: The Human Condition ; Farah, N.: Gifts ; Cliff, M.: No Telephone to Heaven ; Cliff, M.: Abeng; Mo,  T.: Brownout on Breadfruit Boulevard; Mo,  T.: Renegade or Halo Halo; Ghosh,  A.: The Hungry Tide; Naipaul,  V.S.: A Way in the World


The intensification of globalization in the past decade has led to a renewed interest in reinventing Goethe’s project of world literature. Recent discussions of the topic, however, have taken the normative significance of ‘the world’ for granted. This course explores the vocation of world literature in contemporary globalization. The first part of the course examines various ideas of the world and its link to literature and culture in Goethe, Hegel, Marx and Arendt. In the second part of the course, we will turn to consider novels from and about postcolonial space that attempt to transform the world created by Northern political and economic hegemony. We will study novels from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean that explore the consequences of commercial and financial flows such as international tourism, humanitarian aid, foreign investment etc. for humane social development. Issues to be discussed include: the normative status and transformative power of world literature in the wake of Marxist critique; the autonomy of literary and cultural flows in relation to economic flows; non-Eurocentric accounts of world literature; the connections between the formal features of committed literature and its thematic concerns in the crafting of new figurations and stories of belonging of postcolonial peoples and migrants; narrative experimentation, the revival of the story form and the use of 'magic' and its relation to realism; and the political use of the Bildungsroman. Readings will also include theoretical work and criticism by David Harvey, Salman Rusdhie, Walter Benjamin, Benedict Anderson, David Damrosch, Pascale Casanova, Franco Moretti, and Giovanni Arrighi. Students should submit a 20-page paper on a topic of their choice (to be determined in consultation with the instructor.

This course is cross-listed with Rhetoric 240D.

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