Against World Literature – Emily Apter

For a book that sets out to deflate ‘the expansionism and gargantuan scale of world-literary endeavors’, Against World Literature has some sizeable ambitions of its own. Even when Apter talks about literature, it is usually at one or two removes. Often, the real object of her attention is the theoretical exegesis of a work, rather than the work itself. It is a hectic journey through such a wilfully eclectic range of intellectual terrains that it is sometimes unclear how we came to be discussing the point in hand, and for what purpose. The density of the prose does not make it any easier to follow the thread. It is no small feat to write a gloss that is more opaque than the quotation from Jacques Derrida it is intended to explicate.

My review of Emily Apter’s Against World Literature: On the Politics of Untranslatability (Verso, 2013) is out on the Sydney Review of Books.

Update 1.10.14: I’ve just noticed that this piece has been included as required reading on Stanford University’s ‘Comparative Literature 101’ course (see syllabus).

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