This essay questions the geographical categories used to underpin current theoretical and methodological approaches to “world literature,” which end up making nine-tenths of the world, and of literature produced in the world, drop off the world map or appear “peripheral.” Focusing on the multilingual north Indian region of Awadh in the early modern period, it argues that an approach to literature and space that takes multilingualism within society and literary culture as a structuring and generative principle and holds both local and cosmopolitan perspectives in view is more productive for world literature than approaches based only on cosmopolitan perspectives of circulation and recognition.

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