Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-5zjcf Total loading time: 0.545 Render date: 2022-08-08T12:38:25.513Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

Polysystems Redux: The Unfinished Business of World Literature

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 August 2015

Abstract

In responding to Muhsin al-Musawi’s two-part essay on the Arabic Republic of Letters, this essay proposes a rethinking of the world systems model in global literary studies in terms of a polysystems framework. Rather than trying to fit literary worlds—ancient, premodern, modern—within a single Euro-chronological frame culminating in a world capitalist systems model—where the non-European worlds appear as invariably inferior—it is worthwhile to see them as several polysystems with variable valences within a heterotemporal planetary literary space. This approach offers a comparative reading of the emergence of three language worlds—Sanskrit, Persian, and Arabic—and urges us to rethink the totality of the world literary space as a diachronic field that generates overlapping, multiscalar, comparative histories of literary polysystems.

Type
Forum on Literary World Systems
Copyright
© Cambridge University Press 2015 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

1 Apter, Emily, Against World Literature: On the Politics of Untranslatability (London: Verso, 2013), 3 Google Scholar, 8.

2 Ibid., 326.

3 See his discussion of coinage, Peter Bayle’s, Republique des Lettres, at the end of the seventeenth century, and Dena Goodman’s subsequent history of the phrase in her book, The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press 1994)Google Scholar. al-Musawi’s, Muhsin, “The Republic of Letters: Arab Modernity?Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, 1.2 (2014): 267 Google Scholar.

4 Mufti, Aamir, “Orientalism and the Institution of World Literature,” Critical Inquiry 36.3 (2010), 459 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 See Krishnaswamy, RevathyNineteenth Century Language Ideology: A Postcolonial Perspective,” Interventions 7.1 (2005), 4371 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. In my own essay, “The Language Question in India,” I trace the shift from Sanskrit and Persian worlds to English at the cusp of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and discuss the gradual disenfranchisement and desublimation of Sanskrit as a the locus of philological knowledge. My essay was published in The Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature, ed. Ato Quayson. Vol. 2. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 649–680.

6 See Stefan Helgesson’s essay in this forum for the use of terms introversion and extroversion in literary theory.

7 Foucault, Michel, The Order of Things (London: Vintage, 1973), 252 Google Scholar, emphasis added.

8 Ibid., 43.

9 Here I echo and reiterate Gayatri Spivak’s injunction that comparative literature should open up conversations with scholars in area studies if it is to survive in the twenty-first century. Spivak, Gayatri, Death of a Discipline (New York: Columbia University Press), 2003 Google Scholar.

10 Guillen, Claudio, Literature as System: Towards a Theory of Literary History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1971)Google Scholar. Even-Zohar, Itamar, “Polysystem Theory,” Poetics Today, Vol. 1.1/2: Special Issue: Literature, Interpretation, Communication (Autumn 1979): 287310 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

11 Cited in Villaneuva, Dario, “Claudio Guillen: (World) Literature as System,” The Routledge Companion to World Literature, eds. Theo D’Haen, David Damrosch, and Djelal Kadir (Oxford and New York: Routledge, 2011), 111 Google Scholar.

12 For an expanded explication of these see Itamar Even-Zohar, “Polysystem Theory”; see specially page 291 for the idea of open and closed net-of-relations.

13 This resonates somewhat with Franco Moretti’s take on the conundrum of temporality in conceiving of world literature as a system. As he puts it: “the past and the present of literature (a “long” present, beginning in the eighteenth century) should be seen, not as ‘superior’ or ‘inferior’ to each other, but as two epochs that are structurally so different that they require two independent theoretical approaches.” Morett, Franco, “World Systems Theory, Evolutionary Analysis, Weltliteratur ,” Immanuel Wallerstein and the Problem of the World, eds. David Palumbo-Liu, Bruce Robbins, and Nirvana Tanoukhi (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011), 7576 Google Scholar.

14 Not that such studies have not been attempted. See Gonda, J., Sanskrit in Indonesia (Nagpur: International Academy of Indian Culture, 1952)Google Scholar and Wales, H.G., The Making of Greater India (London: Bernard Quartich, 1961)Google Scholar. None, however, approaches the ambitious scale of Pollock’s enterprise.

15 Pollock, Sheldon, The Language of Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture and Power in Premodern India (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 11 Google Scholar.

16 Ibid., 12.

17 Ibid., 572.

18 Ibid., 580.

19 Ricci, Ronic, Islam Translated: Literature, Conversion and the Arabic Cosmopolis of South and Southeast Asia (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), 4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

20 Alam, Muzaffar, ‘The Culture and Politics of Persian in Precolonial Hindustan,’ Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia, ed. Sheldon Pollock (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003), 131198 Google Scholar.

21 Ibid., 134.

22 Ibid., 148–49.

23 Ibid., 149.

24 Macaulay, Thomas Babington, “Educational Minute,” The Proceedings and Transactions of the Bethune Society, (Calcutta: Bethune Society, 1870), 225 Google Scholar.

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Polysystems Redux: The Unfinished Business of World Literature
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Polysystems Redux: The Unfinished Business of World Literature
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Polysystems Redux: The Unfinished Business of World Literature
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *