Desktop version

Home arrow Language & Literature

  • Increase font
  • Decrease font


<<   CONTENTS   >>

Theory

My approach owes much to Pierre Bourdieu, especially The Rules of Art and Distinction.9 I have combined his ideas with the work of sociologist Randall Collins on “interaction rituals” and the “Law of Low Numbers” in The Sociology of Philosophies (1998), a monumental work less known than it should be in literary studies. Collins’ focus on intellectual filiation is suggestive in an era of rapid technological change such as the 1960s. He might be seen as the methodical twin of Bourdieu, patiently amassing thousands of cross-cultural examples. Bringing Collins and Damrosch into conversation with Bourdieu forces a historic specificity onto my corpus but also enlarges its vista.

I want to acknowledge the work of Pascale Casanova and Franco Moretti and to explain how mine differs. Influenced by Bourdieu, Casanova is the scholar whose approach comes closest to my own. However she insists that the “world of letters [is] relatively independent from economic and political realms,” and she “proposes a baseline from which we might measure the newness and modernity of the world of letters.”10 That baseline is Paris, but as I show in my conclusion the fault lines of translation and World Literature production no longer cross there but in New York and London. As for the “republic of spirit,” Edith Wharton already said in 1905 that it was “a close corporation.”11 Casanova eschews the economic, leaving one with the feeling of a nostalgic Eurocentrism and the memory that Goethe, when he warmed to World Literature, also believed the flame would always be Continental.

I also differ with Franco Moretti and his enthusiasm for over-arching theories and world systems. He has embraced grand systems ever since he prophesied the “end of liberal capitalism” over thirty years ago.12 That not transpiring, in 2005 he professed to “no longer believe that a single explanatory framework may account for the many levels of literary production.” But his vocabulary of “spatial discontinuity” and “morphological divergence” reveal his newer outlook to be an idiolect of Darwinism; not people but “devices and genres” create literature.13

 
<<   CONTENTS   >>

Related topics