Thursday, December 23, 2004

Literary World Systems

Seems I missed this review which has been out for at least a week. Writing in The Nation William Deresiewicz combines literature, European history, and World-Systems Theory in thought-provoking review of The World Republic of Letters by Pascale Casanova.

But the most important question her book raises, for me at least, is simply this: Why are we so lame? Why is American culture, and the American intelligentsia in particular, so closed off from what's happening in the rest of the world? Why do we still need Paris to tell us what's going on (if we still even listen to it)?

Followers of literature, especially international literature, already know that certain countries and authors are "on the map" while others perish in terra incognita. Hence, the "surprise" when an "international" writer gathers a following in Manhattan. And on a smaller scale in the US contests such as the Pushcart Prize tend to heavily favor MFA students in prestigous writing departments, a practice routinely critized in outlets such as The American Dissent.

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