Institutions of World Literature
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York, Janet Zong
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CitationYork, Janet Zong. 2020. Institutions of World Literature. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractWhile notions that literature should be both global and useful seem to coherently intersect when teaching world literature in English translation, the reality on the ground reveals varied institution-dependent conceptions of world literature, limits to its uses, and friction in its implementation. In Institutions of World Literature, I argue that in pedagogical practice, the global and the useful form a feedback loop—out of which ideas of world literature emerge as manifestations of the belief that the global, however construed, is inevitably useful to all. I posit that the term world literature has become so capacious and confusing that it is most apprehensible through its institutional specificities. In response, I take up use as an organizing concept to demonstrate that what world literature is depends on what it does. Surveying the broad landscape of world literature programs and practices, I select four representative institutions to create case studies that reflect different aspects of world literature’s uses. Each chapter’s case broadly represents an institutional type: federal service academies; large, racially and ethnically diverse US public universities; global nonprofits; and collaborative US-Singaporean schools. I explore how different institutional stakeholders enact world literature to promote what they conceptualize as global and as useful, through analysis of texts and archives, as well as through research involving interviews and site observations. Ultimately, world literature reveals what people value in their institutional contexts. It has a flexible mystique that allows it to shape-shift for various users’ circumstances and needs. This project demystifies the uses of world literature by illuminating the disjunctions between its abstractions and the material conditions in which the term is put to work.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365870
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