In On Literary Worlds (2012), Eric Hayot wagers that literary studies' long-established habit of thinking about modernity Eurocentrically and “Eurochronologically”—that is, in a way that refuses to take non-Western literatures or comparative methods seriously—“produces bad theories of literature and bad literary history” (Hayot 7). By this crucial measure, Ning Ma's The Age of Silver: The Rise of the Novel East and West provides an important and much-needed model of both a good theory of literature and good literary history. In order to do so, it foregrounds the problem of scale in conceptualizing how forms like the novel emerge and install themselves as mechanisms of cultural logic. Where Raymond Williams called attention to the extended duration of such deep cultural revolutions, Ma—alongside Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Shu-mei Shih, and other theorists of “planetary comparatisms” (28)—takes on their geographic breadth. Only by recognizing...

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