The question of literary history and the nation—the question that animates the essays collected in this issue of MLQ—often seems as old as literature itself. For if literature is what is taught, and this teaching takes place within institutions and structures, then the organization of the literary as an object of study always seems to demand a historical accounting of its coming into being and a justification of its work within cultural formations—regional, national, or global. The earliest histories of many literatures are motivated by the need to mark out boundaries of language and culture that differentiate nations from one another, even when realities on the ground affirm the essentially transnational nature of literature itself. So, literary history finds itself in a perpetual dilemma: it deals with objects of analysis that exist outside borders, yet the institution of literature demands national...

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