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On Franco Moretti's "Conjectures on World Literature"

Summary, Discussion, and Questions on Moretti's Article

Angel Matos

on 21 March 2012

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Transcript of On Franco Moretti's "Conjectures on World Literature"

Franco Moretti's
"Conjectures on World Literature" Not a matter of what, but of how.
Problems with canonical fiction.
"Reading 'more' is always a good thing, but not a solution" (55).
Reconceptualization of how literature is approached and analyzed: "a problem that asks for a new critical method" (55).
One and unequal - "one world literary system (of inter-related literatures)" (56).
World Literature The Western European Novel: Rule or Exception? Presented by:
Angel D. Matos "The more ambicious the project, the greater must the distance be" (57).
Patch work of others' work; NO DIRECT TEXTUAL READING.
World Literature and Close Reading = Oil and Water.
Close reading as exclusion and elitist.
Sacrificing some knowledge to understand the system. Distant Reading Local Reality West European
Patterns (Different across places) LOCAL REALITITES (UNEVEN INFLUENCES ACROSS TIME) i.e. stronger in Southern Europe (1880) than it was in West Africa (1940) Karatani's Binary Compromise of the Novel CONTENT FORM Foreign
(Plot) Local
(Characters) Local
Voice) (Unstable) Moretti's
Compromise of
the Novel GERMANIC ITALIC Icelandic Swedish English High/Low
German Spanish Italian Umbrian PROTO-INDO EUROPEAN SLAVIC... North
Germanic West
Germanic LATIN OSCO-
UMBRIAN Modern Germanic Languages Modern Italic Languages Language Tree (unity to diversity) (Uniformity Engulfing an Initial Diversity) WAVE Spread of the English Language http://www.worldmapper.org/images/largepng/591b.png European
Novel Latin-American
Novel American
Novel European
Novel Latin-American
Novel American
Novel WL Source: Moretti's "Graphs, Maps, Trees" (2005) - page 7 Patterns of
Western Novel
Construction Japanese
Social Experience Brazilian
Social Experience JAMESON SCHWARZ Law: "in cultures that belong to the periphery of the literary sytem [...] the modern novel first arises not as an autonomous development but as a compromise between a western formal influence [...] and local materials" (58). Gasperetti and Goscilo - 18th C Eastern Europe
Toschi and Marti-Lopez - 19th C Southern Europe
Franco and Sommer - Latin America
Frieden - Yidish Novels (1860s)
Moosa, Said, Allen - Arabic Novels (1870s)
Evin and Parla - Turkish Novels (1870s)
Anderson - Filipino Novel (1887)
Zhao and Wang - 19th C Qing Fiction
Obeichina, Irele, Quayson - West African Novels
Compromise between West European pattern and a local reality. Ergo, the Western European novel is not a template or a norm. In order to test the hypothesis of the compromise between foreign form, local material, and local form, Moretti turned to the research conducted by other literary critics throughout a 200 year span.

The validity of Moretti's chain of experiments and the testing of his hypothesis rest on the assumption that the conclusions reached in the surveyed studies is correct. However, many of the conclusions reached in literary studies are interpretative and prone to human error. How do we approach this notion? Are we trying to domesticate an unatainable force? Are we trying to use distance as a way of elevating the status of literary history and the study of literature in a day and age in which priority is given to the quantitative and the scientific?

Wherein lies the value of close reading in the context of Moretti's views on'World Literature'? Do we agree with his assertions? Why or why not?

Are there instances in which close readings are necessary or crucial for our understanding of literary history? To what extent is it possible to combine the practice of close reading with a World Literature approach?

Literature German
Literature American
Literature Latin-American
Literature Chinese
Literature Comparative
Literature English
Literature German
Literature American
Literature Latin-American
Literature Chinese
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