In this essay I propose two different but complementary models with which to think about the relation between the novel and the historical process of globalization. The first—the globalization of the novel—works not with particular textual formations, but with the historical expansion of the novel form hand-in-hand with the colonial enterprise of Western Europe. With this interpretative concept, I review the historical and theoretical parameters that have been used to study both the historical spread of the novel from Europe to the peripheries and the constitution, at the end of the nineteenth and throughout the twentieth century, of a global system of production, reception, and translation of novels. The second model—the novelization of the global—focuses on the production of images of a globalized world as they are constructed in specific novels. My examples are novels by Jules Verne and Eduardo Ladislao Holmberg. While both writers create images of travelers spreading modern bourgeois culture throughout the world and beyond, as might be expected, Verne's images differ significantly from Holmberg's. My claim here is that the particular geopolitical determinations that marked each of these writers produced dissimilar imaginaries of the global reach of their bourgeois characters and plots. Finally, in a coda to this double hypothesis, I connect the interpretative models of the globalization of the novel and the novelization of the global with the rentrée of the concept of world literature. Recently re-introduced to academic debate by Franco Moretti, Pascale Casanova, and David Damrosch, among others, this restored notion of world literature can be understood as an attempt to conceptualize the global ubiquity of the novel since the mid-twentieth century. Here I analyze what could be called the cultural politics of world literature and the critical and pedagogical practices that are derived from this concept. I also examine its underlying claim to address, in academic practices, cosmopolitan expectations related to the production of a discourse about the world based on respect for cultural difference. In other words, my question is whether world literature, as a concept and as a practice, is capable of becoming an effective cosmopolitan discourse.
Research Article|September 01 2010
Mariano Siskind; The Globalization of the Novel and the Novelization of the Global. A Critique of World Literature. Comparative Literature 1 September 2010; 62 (4): 336–360. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-2010-021
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