Reading World Literature. Methodological Challenges
World Literature challenges the reader in emotive as well as cognitive regards. First, there is the conceptual problem. World literature refers to many different literatures and concepts; it is not entirely clear what world literature is meant to be. Does the notion refer to canonical literature, literature that is widespread (mostly literature in the English language) or to more or less everything the literary market recommends with the help of this rewarding title? Second, world literature often demands special attention and contextual knowledge in order to fully grasp its meaning. For these reasons David Damrosch has lowered the epistemological standards as regards the reading of world literature. He recommends to study world literature as a „mode of reading“. Although this pragmatic approach is convincing it leaves many questions open. This lecture will deal with some of the methodological challenges that go along with the seductive term world literature. To name but a few: (1) following Damrosch’s pragmatism the question arises how one should read then-current „modes of reading“. Shall we focus on reception studies and neglect the literary work as it is only the blind spot of manifold and ever changing ways of processing literature? (2) What does the pragmatic approach leave behind? Literature has often been described as a world language that is directed to every human being. Does this humanist, cosmopolitist, or anthropological impulse still resonate in a post-poststructuralist intellectual environment? (3) Through the study of biological and neural components that are at work when reading literature, empirical aesthetics promises to shed light on aesthetic universals. Does this mean that world literature does not fall apart in different modes of reading but could be understood by every human being?
University of Stuttgart
Professor Sandra Richter, Chair Professor of German Literature at the University of Stuttgart, will deliver a paper at Komplitt titled ”Reading World Literature. Methodological Challenges”
Professor Sandra Richter will be the new director of the German Literature Archive at Marbach (DLA). She held a professorship at King’s College London, has served as Professeur invité at CNRS/ENS Paris, and has been a member of the Think Tank 30 Club of Rome.