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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.66, No.1, 43 ~ 62, 2020
The Aesthetics of Distance: Space, Ideology, and Critique in the Study of World Literature
Robert T. Tally Jr.
Although its pedigree is frequently traced back to the nineteenth century, world literature as an institution is a much more recent phenomenon, emerging along with the spatial turn in the humanities and social sciences in the era of globalization. During roughly this same period, we have witnessed the rise of the postcritical approaches to literature that would abandon critique in favor of mere description. One of the most innovative forms of this, Franco Moretti’s “distant reading” project developed out of his attempts to reckon with the scope of world literature, but the project also implicates a political program. As a concept, genre, or field, world literature presents serious problems to readers in the twenty-first century; translation, cultural literacy, commodification, the book industry, and a sort of literary imperialism underlie the global market for world literature, and the reader is confronted with sometimes invisible obstacles to understanding. In a moment when so-called surface reading or postcritical approaches have been increasingly championed, Tally asserts that this sort of ideology-critique is needed more than ever, and that the spatially oriented critique made possible by geocriticism is particularly well suited to the crises and mystifications facing culture workers in the twenty-first century.
Key Words
Space, Critique, Ideology, World Literature, Literary Theory
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