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Foundational Texts of World Literature

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Edited By Dominique Jullien

What makes a world author? How did Homer become a «cosmopolitan» author? How does a Mayan creation narrative challenge our Western logocentric ideas of foundational texts? What might world literature look like to a fourth-century Roman reader? How do past and more recent translations of Dante’s Commedia help us to rethink the changing definitions of world literature? How did the Alexander romance adapt to an Islamic context? How did Tasso’s epic adapt to a later cultural context dominated by the «Turkish Fear»? What shaped the West’s first impression of The Tale of Genji? How does the Ovidian myth of Arachne migrate from Japan to the Caribbean? What are the foundational metaphors at the root of Goethe’s weltliteratur paradigm? What happens when cultures import canonical texts for lack of their own? By what process does an eccentric writer reconstruct a new foundational text from heterogeneous fragments of other cultures? How did literary criticism contribute to the canonization of the Thousand and One Nights in Western literature? What is left of the primacy of the national language when writers are published simultaneously in various translations? How do modern misreadings shape our understanding of national epics and ensure their survival?
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.

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The Lusiads as World Literature: The Romantic Hypothesis of Eastern Influence on Camões (Paulo Lemos Horta) 139

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The Lusiads as World Literature: The Romantic Hypothesis of Eastern Influence on Camões Paulo Lemos Horta You are the mystery beyond Cape Verde. You are the ships bound on their sunward flight. You are conceits baroque, quaint, recondite, That capture the sublime—or the absurd. You knew the rivers of Babylon where the harp Was hanged upon the willows, head surf roll When the typhoon stormed the Cambodian shoal, And, when the black squalls guttered out and ceased, Gave us the Epic that retains the sharp Tang of new oceans and the Gorgeous East —Leonard Bacon, “Luis de Camoens” he advent of models for understanding how literary texts and genres circulate outside their culture of origin in the form of world literature—notably the work of David Damrosch, Franco Moretti and Pascale Casanova—casts in a new light the work of Portuguese Renaissance poet Camões, the first major European author to cross the equator and author of an epic celebrating Vasco da Gama’s discovery of a route to India, The Lusiads. “If Camoens is a world poet,” asks Milton scholar Balachandra Rajan, “what are the terms of a global understanding of him—or the terms of that conversation within which such an understanding might be sought?” (124) This essay proposes a re-evaluation of The Lusiads as a work of world literature in light of the hypothesis of Persian and Indian influence on Camões favored by his German Romantic and Victorian interpreters. What does it mean to read...

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