The World of World Literature
This chapter focuses on the world of world literature—understood as either the site at which a literary work is produced (for world systems theory) or the site disclosed in the literary work itself (through practices of close reading). It examines the scholarship of Franco Moretti, Pascale Casanova, and Edward Said in order to elucidate dominant frames for understanding world literature and interweaves these different frames with selected scenes from modern Egypt: the first, the protests on the streets of Cairo of a Syrian novel deemed blasphemous, Haydar Haydar's Walīmah li-aʻshāb al-bahr (A Banquet for Seaweed); and the second, the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Naguib Mahfouz. Drawing from Said's notion of secular criticism, the chapter argues that reading—and not solely textuality—should be understood as worldly activity with a normative force across interpretative communities.
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