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Foundational Texts of World Literature


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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A New Planet: The Tale of Genji as World Literature (Michael Emmerich) 177


A New Planet: The Tale of Genji as World Literature Michael Emmerich Chujo was cold, because its thin air didn’t trap much heat from Murasaki, whereas Genji had been hot because its murky miasma did. They landed on a mesa, just on the bright side of the dawn terminator. There were some really impressive mountains off to the east, and their landing sight was on the shoulder of another one. As soon as they were out of the ship they were both giggling. Chujo felt good. On Genji everyone weighed half again as much as Earth-normal; on Chujo only a fraction of that—good news for spacers. Or even ex-martians. —Anderson 21 hus begins the third section of the first part of Murasaki, a novel published in 1992, edited by Robert Silverberg and co-authored by six prominent science-fiction writers. The book belongs to a genre known, in the sci-fi publishing argot, as the “shared-world anthology,” in which a number of writers agree to collaborate within a common, pre- established framework. In this case, the core of their shared world is a real star, a red dwarf with no name, only a catalog number: HD36395. In the novel, whose plot has nothing whatsoever to do with The Tale of Genji and in which the tale makes no appearance, HD36395 has been named Murasaki after Murasaki Shikibu, its author, and the planets that orbit it are named after its characters. The most important planets are Genji, named after Hikaru Genji, and Chujo,...

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