Graduate Program

350:608 - What is World Literature?

Course No:  350:608
Index # - 27996
Distribution Requirement:  C
Thursday - 9:50 a.m.
MU 207

What is World Literature?

Mukti Mangharam

In asking this question, this course will interrogate the various social, historical and political contexts through which literature is 'worlded.' Does the signifier 'world literature' refer to all literary texts in all languages of the world? Does it refer to an anthropological comparison of how different cultures develop literary forms? Or does it describe the process of diffusion of 'local' and 'regional' texts around the globe through translation, adaptation or rewriting? The course will be attentive to the ways these questions are politicized by colonial histories, the inequalities of globalization, and the production of an Anglophone literary sphere centered in the West and legitimated through institutions such as the Nobel and Booker prizes. In doing so, we will also consider how the 'center' and 'periphery' are both formed and destabilized by the circulation of particular 'world literature' texts. In pursuit of these questions, we will read various theorists including Goethe, Tagore, Moretti, Chaudhuri, Rushdie, Casanova, Damrosch, and Hayot, as well as canonical writers that have acquired popular global audiences including Chinua Achebe, J.M. Coetzee, Junot Diaz, Amitav Ghosh, Elena Ferrante, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Han Kang, Yann Martel, and Viet Thanh Nguyen.

Selected Readings:

Kalidasa, Sakuntala
Amitav Ghosh, Sea of Poppies
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
Elena Ferrante, Days of Abandonment
Han Kang, The Vegetarian
Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran
Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer
Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing
Yan Martel, Life of Pi

Paper Guidelines

The midterm paper will be a 5-7 page critical response to one of the theoretical readings of your choice. Alternatively, you will carry out a 5-7 page close reading of one of the literary texts we have read.

The final paper will be a 15-20 page research essay taking up a specific argument in relation to any of the readings, including both theoretical and literary works.