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The introduction provides an overview of the ways in which globalization can be defined and how this relates to literary studies. It sets out the book’s main approach, which is to view literature as being a key factor that shapes actual and imagined global phenomena. It also provides an overview of each of the books sections and chapters, flagging up connections between these and showing how they link in with other key fields of enquiry.
This chapter surveys the now well-known notion of the end of history, popularized in particular by Francis Fukuyama, from a literary point of view. It does this, in the main, by looking at the work of the philologist Erich Auerbach. It begins with an overview of the idea of the end of history from the more general, historical viewpoint of eschatology, outlining some of the ways this notion seems to be becoming redundant in the contemporay era. It then moves on to trace the history of eschatological thinking via Auerbach’s corpus, making links between this author’s different works, and explicating how they relate to the main topic. If all escahtological narratives have a global dimension, Auerbach’s work also highlights the way in which the end of history is tied up with more specific notions of globalization, both in the imperialist era and in our own era of thoroughgoing globalization. The chapter thus sets about trying to think through the link between globalization, the end of history and literature, and it ends by drawing some conclusions on how these three things relate to one another in the contemporary era.
This book provides a history of the way in which literature not only reflects, but actively shapes processes of globalization and our notions of global phenomena. It takes in a broad sweep of history, from antiquity, through to the era of imperialism and on to the present day. Whilst its primary focus is our own historical conjuncture, it looks at how earlier periods have shaped this by tracking key concepts that are imbricated with the concept of globalization, from translation, to empire, to pandemics and environmental collapse. Drawing on these older themes and concerns, it then traces the germ of the relation between global phenomena and literary studies into the 20th and 21st centuries, exploring key issues and frames of study such as contemporary slavery, the digital, world literature and the Anthropocene.