This essay addresses a major gap in the recent scholarship on world literature: the neglect of libraries and print cultural institutions to determine world-literary circulation and reception. Mani makes a case for the dual role of libraries as instrumental to and as instruments of access to world literature. Locating world literature at the intersection of libraries, print-cultural studies, and translation histories, the essay opens up new significations for our understanding of world literature as a comparative project. Instead of reinforcing ownership and expertise by fixating on the original language of creation and scholarly expertise, the essay proposes a perspective on world literature that is based on borrowing privileges: through translation, reading, and collections in private and public libraries. Mani ends by discussing Hermann Hesse’s essay Eine Bibliothek der Weltliteratur (A Library of World Literature, 1929). Direct and indirect censorship, the cultural politics of intimidation, and the ethnicization of German national literature make Hesse’s essay, and its afterlife, an exemplary means of evaluating world literature through the politics of (in)accessibility.
B. Venkat Mani; Borrowing Privileges: Libraries and the Institutionalization of World Literature. Modern Language Quarterly 1 June 2013; 74 (2): 239–260. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-2073007
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