What Is a World?: On Postcolonial Literature as World Literature
Pheng Cheah is Professor of Rhetoric and Chair of the Center for Southeast Asia Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Inhuman Conditions: On Cosmopolitanism and Human Rights and Spectral Nationality: Passages of Freedom from Kant to Postcolonial Literatures of Liberation.
The World of World Literature in Question
This chapter is a critique of recent theories of world literature by Franco Moretti, David Damrosch, and Pascale Casanova. It contrasts the lack of a normative dimension in these theories and their reduction of the world to the spatial extensiveness of the global market with Erich Auerbach’s normative view of world literature and his emphasis on the world’s temporal structure. The chapter argues for the importance of a more careful reading of Goethe’s normative account of Weltliteratur, which distinguishes the world as a higher spiritual realm from the globe.
This chapter examines the spiritualist conception of world in Hegel’s philosophy of world history. It explores how Hegel foregrounds the reality of violence in his optic of world history, the important role of culture in the justification of violence in relations between states, and how this account of cultural capital is superior to the account of world literature as a struggle over literary values.