World literature, first intuited in Goethe’s foundational idea of weltliteratur as literature that seeks to transcend national boundaries, is viewed here in its essential mobility and migratory capacity, which relies on the centrality of the reading act. This volume focuses on foundational texts as they are read across cultures, languages and historical contexts. Its goal is to reflect on canonical texts – from Homer’s Odyssey to Murakami’s Genji, from Cervantes to Mayan hieroglyphs, from Dante to Coetzee, from Goethe to Lezama Lima, from the Thousand and One Nights to Jorge Luis Borges – in a global perspective: how they are translated, appropriated, transformed, how they travel across different cultures and languages, their foundational status evolving accordingly in a post-European world.
Foundational Texts of World Literature includes contributions by Gerardo Aldana, Sandra Bermann, Piero Boitani, Michael Emmerich, Azadeh Yamini Hamedani, Stefan Helgesson, Paulo Lemos Horta, Juan Pablo Lupi, Peter Madsen, Ulrich Marzolph, Suzanne Saïd, Evanghelia Stead, Mads Rosendahl Thomsen, and Richard Van Leeuwen.
World Literature Two Thousand Years Ago: Reflections of a Senator in 306 A.D. (Piero Boitani) 17
World Literature Two Thousand Years Ago: Reflections of a Senator in 306 A.D. Piero Boitani e are on the Sabine Hills, near Rome, in the year 306 of our era, that is to say between the abdication of Diocletian and the advent of Constantine, between the last great persecution against the Christians in 303, and the Edict of Milan with which Constantine, in 313, allowed all religions to be practiced in the empire and started building immense Christian basilicas—St John Lateran, St Paul’s Outside the Walls, and St Peter’s—in the City. I am a well-off, cultivated, enlightened pagan living in my Sabine villa from May to October, and following events in Rome and in the world with some anxiety. Like everybody else of my standing, I read, speak, and write Latin and Greek. Although the two parts of the empire, West and East, are fairly different from each other, Latin dominating in the former, Greek in the latter, there is a koiné, a cultural community, spreading from the Atlantic to North Africa and the Middle East, throughout centers such as Rome, Athens, Alexandria, and Antioch, and soon to be extended to that Byzantium which will take the new name of Constantinople, which revels in common grounds as well as diversity. An impressive literary and philosophical tradition, now almost a thousand years old, has come down to me and is stored, intact, in the great libraries of the Mediterranean world, above all in Alexandria and Rome. And indeed I...
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