From “The Problematic and Pragmatic Pedagogy of World Literature” (ariel; Vol. 46, Issue 1–2)
“Despite the field’s rise in relevance, a working definition of world literature remains elusive. Does the term encompass all literature in all languages, locations, and time periods? Although such a broad definition may seem purposefully hyperbolic and unrealistic, some scholars, such as Moretti, are intent on such a definition. (2) A more manageable definition selects literary masterpieces to create a world literature canon of significant texts or ‘great books.’ To complicate matters further, some understand world literature as a characteristic of postnationalist literature. Such a view limits the temporality of the field and treats as unique the decolonized period of world history. In this view, modern communication, technology, and commerce have created a hitherto unparalleled global connectedness, and this new, increasingly digital, kind of connectedness is the proper study of world literature. In stark contrast to studying all literature in all places and times, this view delimits the field to texts circulating internationally, which represent more than a single tradition. Salman Rushdie’s texts are a paragon of this model, as they attempt to float seamlessly between South Asian and English literary and cultural traditions. However, the Rushdie model begs the question that if world literature is only concerned with this kind of postnationalist multivalent literature, are there enough Rushdies to justify an entire field? A wider perspective—the most commonly accepted model of world literature—comes from Damrosch’s What is World Literature? He defines world literature as ‘all literary works that circulate beyond their culture of origin, either in translation or in their original language’ (9). For Damrosch, world literature is defined by the trajectory of a text from its original context to a foreign context. ‘World Literature is not an infinite, ungraspable canon of works,’ therefore, ‘but rather a mode of circulation and of reading’ (17). Movement and circulation are the defining characteristics that make a text global, so that a Laotian text that remains prominent only in Laos is not world literature, but one that circulates abroad would be. Despite a growing consensus toward Damrosch’s trajectory-based approach, these shared questions of scale persist in this newly manifesting field and no single method has risen to dominance. Indeed, it is this lack of standard definition that makes the study of world literature at once vibrant, malleable, slippery, and frustratingly intangible.”
Hodapp, James. “The Problematic and Pragmatic Pedagogy of World Literature.” ariel 46, no. 1–2 (2015): 69+. Gale Literature Resource Center, accessed September 30, 2022.