Unit 1: The Return of World Literature Focus Questions

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What is world literature? Is it different from national literature?
World Literature is the circulation of national literatures beyond their national borders. It is the field of study that comparative literature investigates.

The term “world literature” was first used by the German writer and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, referring to the dissemination of literature from and to countries across the globe.

The study of world literature is a powerful tool for global studies because it encompasses so many themes that are important to understanding globalization. World literature can show us how information is shared between cultures and nations. It provides insight into how cultural artifacts are transformed as they traverse languages and boundaries.

World Literature, in its aspiration for universality, is composed of national literatures. This implies that World Literature is composed of two contradictory components, the national and the cosmopolitan (the universal / the international), which causes an inner tension within discussions about World Literature.

Why is world literature a subject of study at university?
You develop an understanding of historical and cross-cultural literary traditions and the ways in which they interact, while broadening your critical knowledge of literature and your appreciation of questions of translation and transmission. You also have the opportunity to explore concepts such as ‘genre’, ‘theme’, ‘fictionality’, ‘literariness’, ‘canon’, ‘reception’, and ‘literary movement’. As a result of encountering writers and texts from all over the world, you gain a truly global perspective on literature and its cultural contexts.
Is the making or study of world literature political?
What makes a work of literature world literature?
How might the study of world literature differ with respect to time and place?
Categories: World Literature