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Contextualizing World Literature


Edited By Jean Bessière and Gerald Gillespie

This book revisits the notion of World Literature and its applications in Comparative Literature. It suggests the notion not as a means to sift out international paradigms for reading literatures, but as a set of guidelines for the construction of interlocking and/or reciprocally illuminating multilingual literary clusters. These ensembles are of very diverse shapes: the world, a region, a country, a language block, a network of cross-cultural «interferences» – while the so-called minor literatures invite to question the use of these ensembles. Within this frame, fourteen essays respond to the basic paradox of World Literature: how may specific methodological and critical outlooks allow expression of the universal? The answers to this question can be arranged in three groups: 1. Recognition of the need to break loose from European or Western critical perspectives; 2. Presentation of macro- and microcosmic dimensions connectedness and its processes; 3. Definitions of the methodological efforts and hermeneutic orientations to be applied.
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“Salut au Monde”: The World as Envisioned by World Literature


← 40 | 41 → “Salut au Monde”

The World as Envisioned by World Literature


University of Georgia, Athens

In a recent article published in The Comparatist, the Cuban-American critic Alfred Lopez discussed Jose Martí’s reading of Walt Whitman. From this article, I learned that Whitman was a cursory reader, perusing a dozen books at any time, reading a few pages here and there, seldom getting sufficiently interested in any volume to read it in its entirety, dipping into various genres and reading no language but English. Although he never travelled beyond North America, it did not prevent him from envisioning the many places he evokes in “Salut au Monde” though, as Lopez notes, “his own mystical, abstracted vision of an America is at once generalized and exceptional” (Lopez 2011: 5). The world Whitman presented in this poem was populated by undifferentiated Others “facilely reduced to ‘Camarados’ in turn subsumed into his Hegelian vision of America as an ever-expanding end-of-History” (Lopez 6).

Lopez compares the American poet to the Cuban Martí and speculates on their possible encounter at a reception following a lecture on Abraham Lincoln by Whitman at Madison Square Theatre in 1887. If Martí and Whitman did, in fact, speak, Lopez speculates that it would have been in English, although Martí could have dialogued in Spanish and French. Martí might have broached any number of interesting topics, since he was learned in the Classics and had advanced degrees...

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