I don’t really feel like doing this today, but I said I would so…
World Literature is a strange concept, and yet we through the term around as if it should be understood what is meant by it. Do we mean literature that should be interesting for the whole world? Literature that belongs to a collection that can represent the whole world? Literature that helped shape the world? Of the list, I think that last item is the most satisfying, but it’s still not that satisfying. The point is, it’s a nebulous concept, but it’s at least better than the concept of “National Literature.”
As I addressed in previous posts, it’s difficult to put geographical boundaries on a piece of text, and even less on an idea.
In my Transnationality and Literature course back then, the professor spent time to explain the difference between fact and fiction. It’s a god thing she did, since I’d never thought about the distinction before (sarcasm there, obviously), but there is action involved in both. Fact comes from the latin word facere, or “to do.” Fiction comes from fingere, “to form” or “to make.” At the time, I don’t think I appreciate the difference between the two, but I understand now why she needed to point it out in relation to conceptions of national literature. When we think of nation, thanks to Benedict Anderson, we think of something being made. It’s created and in this way directly related to the work of literature. If we consider Auerbach, this means that, while language developments are facere- an identifiable development of happening, literature is the following of how things are made. Auerbach is known for claiming that home could not be found in a nation, rather in the language.
This is why language in the post-WWII World was so controversial. German Jewish people could no longer speak German, and yet their Heimat could only be found there.
Furthermore, one can cite Siegfried Weigel’s … wait, I am just realizing that I need to find out what I read to prepare for the first lecture. There’s a great quote on page 17 that would link awesomely to Papageien:
“Jedes Konzept von Nationalliteratur entwirft einen je spezifischen Umgang mit dem Chronotopes von Literature und Geschichte” (Weigel 17 in I don’t remember where)
Every concept of national literature is determined by the specific relationships of the chronotopes of literature and history. What are chronotopes? Bakthin would have something to say. Wikipedia also of course has something to say about Bakhtin having something to say:
In literary theory and philosophy of language, the chronotope is how configurations of time and space are represented in language and discourse. The term was taken up by Russian literary scholar M.M. Bakhtin who used it as a central element in his theory of meaning in language and literature.
If that isn’t enough for today and thinking about the relation between lit, nation, and language, think about how a particular piece of literature depicts time and space, and then you’ve got one chronotope, one presentation in language and discourse of how time and space work. Basically, if I’m thinking about the chronotope of Brick Lane, I till think about how her life and her mental and physical space are represented in the language. Of course, the television and intermediality plays a role in this.
To be continued (though for the next few days, by post will come late since I won’t have computer access).
Disclaimer: this series is a collection of brainstorms and free-writes that are a part of my planning for actual text in my dissertation. Therefore, I am giving myself the liberty to make mistakes, make assumptions (call me out on offensive ones, though!), not tie up loose ends, and generally not make any sense.
Copyright 2016 Dorothea Trotter: because these writings are planning for actual text in my dissertation, some of this will appear in my dissertation. I hold the right to the words in this post and require that interested parties ask for permission before copying the words or ideas too closely. Obviously, the date of posting is the date of copyright and I reserve the right to challenge suspected plagiarism in my future dissertation submission using these blogs as proof of originality.