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Politics of Cross-Cultural Reading

Tagore, Ben Jelloun and Fo in English


Marion Dalvai

The last two decades have witnessed an upsurge in scholarship on world literature. In most of this work world literature is understood as a concept in intellectual history, as a cultural system or as a curriculum to be taught. Grounded in three empirical case studies, this book complements such approaches by asking what world literature in English is or has been and what role authoritative readers (translators, editors, publishers, academics and literary critics) play in constituting it as a field for others.
The ambivalent position of English as a roadblock to international visibility and as a necessary intermediary for other literary languages justifies a particular attention to what is presented as world literature in English. By emphasizing the constitutive function of cross-cultural reading, the book encourages reflection on the discrepancy between what is actually read as world literature and what might potentially be read in this way.
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This book started out as a doctoral project at Trinity College Dublin where I was the recipient of a Trinity Long Room Hub scholarship within the Texts, Contexts, Cultures programme. At the university of Dublin, I am most grateful to Peter Arnds, my supervisor, for helping me to develop my arguments, encouraging me to persist with them and accompanying the work through several drafts. Caitríona Leahy and Cormac Ó Cuilleanáin read and commented on an early draft of what has become the theoretical part of the book. Many thanks are due to my internal and external examiners, Moray McGowan (Dublin) and Susan Bassnett (Warwick) for a viva that turned into a wide-ranging and stimulating discussion of the field.

I thank Nivedita Sen (Delhi) and Sreejata Guha (Kolkata) for our conversation about translation theory and practice, and Hans Harder (Heidelberg) and Habib Zanzana (Scranton) for sharing their work on Tagore and Ben Jelloun. Sofia Jamaï (Casablanca) kindly tracked down and posted to me material from a Moroccan academic publisher.

Participants at the ‘Comparative Literature/World Literature’ conference at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver (March 2011), ‘Voices in Translation’ conference at the University of Copenhagen (November 2011) and the ‘Tagore: The Global Impact of a Writer in the Community’ conference at Edinburgh Napier University (May 2012) listened to what I had to say about Ben Jelloun, Fo and Tagore and helped clarify my work by their questions and comments. A portion of Chapter 5 appeared in Authorial...

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