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The main aim of this chapter is to articulate the relationship between literary catalogs and their creation of readerships, especially when the said relationship is mediated by the state. I propose that the catalogs of national, and by extension world literature become politically and ideology inflected, sometimes through facilitation, other times through obstruction by the state and its ancillaries. I further argue in this chapter that through differentiations of the native and the foreign, the indigenous and the migrant—often propagated through majoritarian myths of national origins—the state functions to privilege certain languages and literatures over others by claims of ownership of certain literary traditions and rejection of others. In addition, the chapter also provide examples of ways in which populist conflations of the indigenous with the original are offered resistance. To this end, the chapter I want to draw attention to three “bibliographic” moments in the changing pact with books of the Indian reading publics: late nineteenth, mid-twentieth, and early twenty-first centuries.
The inadequacies inherent in tracing literary history in purely national terms have been apparent ever since the emergence of national literature in the early nineteenth century: the problems caused by multilingual nations, authors, and texts; by multinational languages, and so on. If world literature is not merely to replicate the errors of national-literary analysis on a larger scale, then new geographies will be needed. Various options exist, from the “areas” of Area Studies (linked to a dubious model of “civilizational” contact and conflict), to “-spheres” and “-phones” (the Sinophone, the Anglosphere, etc.), to hemispheric and oceanic studies. Each of these approaches opens new perspectives – and creates new blind spots. I review an alternative model, which I have earlier proposed in my An Ecology of World Literature (Verso Books, 2015), which seeks instead to identify typological similarities between the “ecological” contexts in which literatures exist. These similarities are transhistoric and trans-continental, and while they do not provide a perfect substitute for geographically-based models in all circumstances, my ecological typology suggests new comparative possibilities for world literature.
This chapter introduces the critical issues that permeate the discussion of the location and horizon of Coetzee’s literary practice. It starts by noting a polarization among critics between those who characterize his literary project as being a highly localized one that speaks to the condition of South Africa and those who regard his work as being concerned with universal problems and as belonging to ‘world literature’. It delves into this problem by considering the way Coetzee himself narrates the vicissitudes of a writer navigating national and global literary fields in Elizabeth Costello. Looking next at his corpus as a whole, the chapter argues that an appreciation of Coetzee’s peculiar world-making fictional strategies helps us to discern that world (or worlds) to which his fictions seek to orient us. It concludes by considering Coetzee’s recent interest in the ‘literatures of the south’, speculating that his corpus has been concerned to explore through its world-making what it means to live beneath southern horizons.
The vibrant periodical culture of the nineteenth century was significantly formed by writers and publishers from Ireland and Scotland. These journalists were often athwart what we now regard as canonical Romantic and Victorian writing, and in their work crafted a satiric, parodic counterpoint to new valorisations of poetic insight, imaginative originality and aesthetic disinterestedness. The work of William Maginn and Francis Sylvester Mahony demonstrates the transnational, polyglossic and multifaceted authorial games that periodical culture enabled. Whether remembered as proto-postmodern critics of poetic afflatus, or embittered hacks squandering their potential for a pay cheque, periodical writers created a literature teetering between brilliant comedy and tedious sniping. Undermining ideas of authenticity and authorial originality, periodical literature brought to the fore tensions inherent in nineteenth-century celebrations of national culture and aesthetic idealism.
Critical reflection on literature became a vital part of the public culture. This chapter addresses some of the ways in which literature became not only a vehicle for the expression and circulation of nationalist ideas but also a measure of the nation. It pursues three broad areas of inquiry: first, the continuities and distinctions between contemporary nationalism studies and articulations of nationality in the history of ideas in the West; second, the development of national literary history as a synecdoche for the nation's history; third, the ways in which the failure of national literature was tied to the incomplete development or decline of the nation. The study of nationalism has largely been shaped by political science, sociology and history, and has focused on the conditions under which nationalism emerges. National literature became not merely an expression of the nation's character but also evidence of the nation's merit and even legitimacy.
In the century between David Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature and Thomas Carlyle's The French Revolution Lowland Scotland became one of the advanced centres of European and North Atlantic literary culture. Scotland's entry into modernity followed its dissolution into 'North Britain' at the 1707 Union of Parliaments. The French Revolution marked a turning point in Scotland as in England, although with different dynamics. Scotland's literary eminence declined sharply after the 1830s, despite an influential spate of liberal and radical periodicals encouraged by Reform. The accumulation of urban wealth through colonial trade, agricultural improvement and early industrialization financed the institutions that comprised the republic of letters of the Lowland Scottish Enlightenment. Hugh Blair buttressed his defence of the antiquity of Fingal with the appeal to conjectural history, in an argument that exposed its circular, fictive logic. The most drastic unwriting of Scottish Romanticism occurred, however, in a sequence of works that terminated the post-Enlightenment era of national literature in Edinburgh.
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