2nd Public Lecture
What is a World? Postcolonial Literature as World Literature
MB113G Main Building, May 24, 5:00 p.m.
The central premise of the recent revival of interest in world literature is that the concrete reality of contemporary globalization has led to the emergence of world literature, which has rendered merely national literature obsolete or even illusory. In this contrast between ‘world literature’ and ‘national literature,’ the attachment of the adjective ‘world’ to qualify the noun, ‘literature’ indicates the conflation of the globe, a bounded object or entity in Mercatorian space, with the world, a form of relating, belonging or being-with. One says map of the world, but one really means map of the globe. It is assumed that the spatial diffusion and extensiveness achieved through global media and markets give rise to a sense of worldhood, of belonging to a shared world, when one might argue that such developments lead to the undermining of worldhood. An understanding of worldliness in terms of the material processes of globalization leads to a deficient understanding of the normativity of world literature. Through an examination of Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide, this paper argues that certain kinds of postcolonial literature can help us throw into the sharpest relief the normative dimension of world literature because they craft new figurations and stories of world-belonging for given postcolonial peoples in situations where the devastating impact of globalization for the lower strata of these societies makes opening onto another world especially urgent.