Read Combined and Uneven Development: Towards a New Theory of World-Literature by Sharae Deckard Nicholas Lawrence Neil Lazarus Graeme MacDonald Upamanyu Pablo Mukherjee Benita Parry Stephen Shapiro Online

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The ambition of this book is to resituate the problem of 'world literature', considered as a revived category of theoretical enquiry, by pursuing the literary-cultural implications of the theory of combined and uneven development. This theory has a long pedigree in the social sciences, where it continues to stimulate debate. But its implications for cultural analysis haveThe ambition of this book is to resituate the problem of 'world literature', considered as a revived category of theoretical enquiry, by pursuing the literary-cultural implications of the theory of combined and uneven development. This theory has a long pedigree in the social sciences, where it continues to stimulate debate. But its implications for cultural analysis have received less attention, even though the theory might be said to draw attention to a central -perhaps the central - arc or trajectory of modern(ist) production in literature and the other arts worldwide. It is in the conjuncture of combined and uneven development, on the one hand, and the recently interrogated and expanded categories of 'world literature' and 'modernism', on the other, that this book looks for its specific contours. In the two theoretical chapters that frame the book, the authors argue for a single, but radically uneven world-system; a singular modernity, combined and uneven; and a literature that variously registers this combined unevenness in both its form and content to reveal itself as, properly speaking, world-literature. In the four substantive chapters that then follow, the authors explore a selection of modern-era fictions in which the potential of their method of comparativism seems to be most dramatically highlighted. They treat the novel paradigmatically, not exemplarily, as a literary form in which combined and uneven development is manifested with particular salience, due in no small part to its fundamental association with the rise of capitalism and its status in peripheral and semi-peripheral societies as a 'modernising' import. The peculiar plasticity and hybridity of the novel form enables it to incorporate not only multiple literary levels, genres and modes, but also other non-literary and archaic cultural forms - so that, for example, realist elements might be mixed with more experimental modes of narration, or older literary devices might be reactivated in juxtaposition with more contemporary frames....

Title : Combined and Uneven Development: Towards a New Theory of World-Literature
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ISBN : 9781781381915
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 256 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Combined and Uneven Development: Towards a New Theory of World-Literature Reviews

  • Phillip
    2019-03-07 16:55

    I did not end up reading all the way through this book, I read the introduction and parts of a few other chapters.What I can say about this book is that the ideas are really interesting, and the attempt to redefine world literature is an ambitious goal. Basically, the idea the Warwick Research Collective develops is that "world literature" should properly be understood as literature reflecting a position in the capitalist world-system--that is, the world contoured by capitalist norms, even though that contouring is often uneven or unequal. They actually attempt to re-periodize literature, arguing that Modernity begins in the early 1800s with authors like Dickens, when the commodity fetish becomes a structuring principle of social consciousness (in the West). Then as capitalism becomes globalized via imperialism, trade, etc. it becomes the dominant world-structuring principle and therefore writers from every society find their consciousness reshaped by the vicissitudes of capitalism.I have several concerns with this theory, particularly when it is presented as an alternative to Eurocentric or postcolonial threads of comparative literature (which often take Europe and European lit as starting points). It seems to me that the WReC's reading still privileges a phenomenon begun in Europe and exported throughout the world as the driving force of Modernity. Although they argue that the ubiquity of capitalism and the systemic patterns of uneven development make this a non-European phenomenon, it seems to me that that is a questionable premise at best because it still locates the origin of Modernity in Europe and then imagines it exported to the rest of the world (which is a model they explicitly reject).One other issue is that the writing is very dense, very philosophically opaque. This isn't that much of a problem for me (though it is not as enjoyable a read as some other theory/philosophy I could name), but it does make for a slog.The other thing is that this book is most obviously concerned with an internal debate about the politics of comparative literature, which really isn't my field.

  • kasia
    2019-03-23 20:19

    The main thing that this book wants to do is upend any straightforwardly linear notions of development (or modernity), and argue for a single world system, one where apparent "backwardness" or "underdevelopment" in one place is often actively produced by "development" in another. The next step is to connect this notion to literature, which they do by arguing that "world literature be conceived precisely through its mediation by and registration of the modern world-system." (9) Along the way, they spend some time distinguishing this position from other approaches to world literature (especially those of David Damrosch, Franco Moretti, Pascale Casanova, and Wai Chee Dimock). They proceed to examining a number of texts, from a variety of places (though generally in translation), focusing very specifically on how they register the existence of, and their position within, the world-system. Although homage is paid to form, and the authors occasionally gesture towards a notion that certain constellations of development (or rather, positions within the world-system) are strongly correlated with specific literary techniques (unreliable narrators, anti-linear plot lines, meta-narratorial devices), they mostly discuss content. The book is a useful synthesis of many different ways of talking about socio-economic development and world systems in literary studies, if an occasionally strident one. The argument is very clear and quite easy to follow, which makes it very helpful in terms of framing and positioning one's own approach.