The Three Futures of World Literature

Haun Saussy


"Current world-literature discussions are located far from Hugo’s place on the spectrum, and far from Baudelaire’s and Flaubert’s too. In their attention to measurable proxies of success and influence, they waver between the 'American' and 'rosy' alternatives set forth by Bouvard and Pécuchet. If the debate about world literature, whether as fact or as value, seems to be a recycled motif from the stockpile of nineteenth-century cultural anxieties, perhaps what it needs is more 'structure,' to echo Bourdieu again: an avowal of its fatedness, repetitiveness, and overdetermination.... The question has never been 'What Is World Literature?' but 'Whence comes this fantasy, and what is the hold it still has on us?'"

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