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ERC Consolidator Grant

Reading Global: Constructions of World Literature and Latin America


Project lead: Prof. Dr. Gesine Müller

Project duration: 1 September 2015 to 1 September 2020

Project funding: Consolidator Grant of the European Research Council (ERC)

Project description:

In observing the highly productive and heterogeneous fields of research into World Literature over the past 15 years, one element stands out, which is that almost all relevant contributions to current theorizing have built their respective approaches around two fundamental problems of global literary phenomena. On the one hand World Literature is no longer viewed as a static canon, a series of distinguished and authoritative works, but as a complex and dynamic process involving historically varying mechanisms of global reception (see for example the work of Damrosch 2003, Ette 2012 or the studies edited in Küpper 2013). On the other hand, most of current research work shares an awareness of an irresolvable problem with which every current investigation is ultimately confronted, that of the sheer volume of material and attendant difficulties in operationalizing the object of study; as Moretti puts it: “[W]e are talking of hundreds of languages and literatures here. Reading ‘more’ seems hardly to be the solution” (2000, 55).

The answers that current theory formation has so far attempted to provide for these two core problems in the debate on World Literature must be viewed both as critical and as insufficient inasmuch as they are incapable of implementing, on the specific level of analysis, the knowledge that they have themselves formulated with regard to the significance of circulation in global literary fields and the sheer quantity of material. The principal problem of these studies lies in their disciplinary limitations of an analysis informed solely by literary studies, which are incapable of engaging the material and economic factors involved in the global circulation of literatures—factors that these studies themselves identify as being fundamental for the “functioning” of World Literature.