Pheng Cheah answers the titular question of his new book, What Is a World? On Postcolonial Literature as World Literature, on its second page. Arguing that global capital is based on “technologies of temporal calculation,” Cheah goes on to elucidate the fundamentally spatial conception behind these technologies: “The mapping of the world by temporal calculations is premised on a conceptualization of the world as a spatial category, namely, an object of quantitatively measurable time. World, however, is originally a temporal category” (1, 2). Reconceiving the world in temporal terms allows Cheah to offer a “radical rethinking of world literature . . . that is an active power in the making of worlds” (2). Cheah's goal is nothing less than the recovery of the “humanist ethos that had been world literature's traditional heart and core,” an ethos “hollow[ed] out” by contemporary theorists...

You do not currently have access to this content.