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Globalizing Literary History

 John Neubauer

 Comparative Literature,University of Amsterdam

 1012 WX Amsterdam, Netherlands


 Abstract National conception and justification of literature constitutes thefoundation of literature's national institutionalization in nineteenth-century Europe.Through examining Wellek's insightful arguments on literature and literaryhistory, this article specifically focuses on European literary histories, in whichtheglobalization of English has given a multicultural project a monolingual bias. Infact, writing regional literary histories has a two-fold significance for globalizingthe field: they provide regional models that can be applied to other regions, andthey represent concrete steps towards a global conception of literary history. To me,works of literature and other works of art are neither fixed nor eternal but constantlychange. Hence, I propose that a broadened notion of adaptation could become thevery heart of a global concept of literary history. Such a broadened conceptionwould recognize not only that literary works are constantly reshaped by newhistorical, cultural, and social contexts but also that new philological shapes emergevia re-edition (or even digitalization) of texts;adaptations via translations,staging,musical setting, and visual illustrations.

  Key words regional literary history; global literary history; national conception ofliterature; Europeanliterary history

  Author John Neubauer was a Professor of Comparative Literature at Universityof Amsterdam, and former editor of arcadia: International Journal of LiteraryCulture. He published many books and articles on comparative literature andcultural studies, among which are Bifocal vision: Novalis’Philosophy of Natureand Disease (1971), The Emancipation of Music from Language: Departure fromMimesis in Eighteenth CenturyAesthetics (1986), The Fin-de-Siecle Culture ofAdolescence (1992), Cultural History After Foucault (1999), and History of theLiterary Cultures of East-Central Europe (2007). He passed away in Amsterdam onOctober 5`", 2015.

  1. National Histories of Literature

  Friedrich Schlegel, a leading German romantic thinker,started to write the firstliterary histories in the last years of the eighteenth century. His brother AugustWilhelm Schlegel broadened these first comparative and transnational attempts,but the wars against Napoleon inspired Friedrich's last and most importantliterary history, which is broadest in scope but nationalist in his conception. His1812 series of lectures in Vienna titled Geschichte der alten and neuen Literatur(History of the Old and the New Literature) briefly touched on Hebrew and Persianliterature, and, based on Schlegel's study of Sanskrit,included a chapter on ancientIndian literature. The lectures bypassed Chinese literature, whose first historiesin European languagesHerbert Giles's History of Chinese Literature (1901)and Wilhelm Grube's Geschichte der chinesischen Literatur (History of ChineseLiterature; 1902)appeared almost a century later. Friedrich Schlegel's initiativeto globalize literary history was, however, also a decisive step towards nationalism,for he narrowed his conception by defining literature as the embodiment of anation's intellectual life. Earlier he believed that the national elements of modernliterature could only be comprehended within a larger totality, but now heproclaimed that poetry's foremost task was to recall a nation's distant origins, andglorify, as well as preserve, those national memories that were indispensable for anation's spiritual existence (10-16).

  This national conception and justification of literature became the foundationof literature's national institutionalization in nineteenth-century Europe. AllEuropean nations gradually introduced the teaching of their national literature in theschools and at the universities; university chairs were established for the vernacularliterature; and the appointed professors were expected to write histories of thenational literature for educational purposes. Simultaneously, National Theaters,National Academies, publishers, and other literary institutions were foundedto cultivate and promote thisnative literature. Most nineteenth-century nationalhistories closely linkedliterature to social, political, and national events, usually inthe spirit of Hippolyte Taine's triple concept of "race, milieu, and moment" (seeWellek Modern Criticism, 4: 27-57) and Hegel's notion of a Zeitgeist, the idea thatall social and artistic phenomena of an age express a common spirit. TheHegelianidea of Zeitgeistfurthered the periodization of literary history and suggested theuse of periods like Romanticism and Realism, which covered more than literatureproper by including the other arts and cultural phenomena. Nineteenth-centurynational literary historiesof Gervinus, Lanson, Taine, Chlebowski, De Sanctis,and Beothy in myfinal "Works Cited" helped forging national identities, but theyexcluded minorities and often created schematic unities at the cost of individualismand variety. Individual literary works were often forced into period concepts thatdid not do justice to their richness. Reading literature within such preconceivednational and period concepts did not encourage readers to focus at the linguisticand stylistic aspects of the texts.

  The first major attack on such schematizations of literature came from theRussian formalists, whoquestioned periodization and references toa Zeitgeist. Ina 1927 article titled "On Literary Evolution," Yuri Tynyanovproposed that literaryhistory was a series of temporal shifts from system to system, amounting to whathe called a "literary series" in literary evolution (459). Though he admitted that theliterary series should later be correlated with non-literary series in the other arts,culture, and social life, he minimized the role of a Zeitgeist by foregrounding atimeline based on literature alone. This approach was adopted by Rene Wellek, aliterary scholar born in Czechoslovakia who immigrated to the United States andintroduced there after World War II the study of comparative literature. Accordingto the famous Theory of Literature he published with Austin Warren in 1948, therecould be no objection if the results of literary historians "should coincide with thoseof political, social, artistic, and intellectual historians," but "our starting-point mustbe the development of literature as literature" (264).

  The Tynyanov/Wellek theory did not inspire outstanding new literaryhistories, and nearly two more decades had to pass before it came under seriousattack from Germany, where the werkimmanent approach, exclusive focus ontext, dominated after the war. Hans Robert Jauss opened his 1967 inaugurallecture Literaturgeschichte als Provokation der Literaturwissenschaft (LiteraryHistory as a Provocation of Literary Scholarship) with the lapidary but devastatingremark: "Literary history has fallen in our time into increasing, but by no meansundeserved, disrepute" (144). He regarded not only the traditional literary historiesresponsible for this, but also Marxism and Formalism, which dominated post-war literary histories in East- and West-Germany respectively. Jauss gave credit toTynyanov's notion of evolution (166), but proceeded to outline a reception conceptthat interlinks the literary and social series via the experience of readers and theirdialogue with literary works (167, 171).

  Wellek, among the first American theorists to respond to Jauss, opened hisfamous "The Fall of Literary History" (1973) by citing Jauss's statement, but hedismissed reception theory as de d vu, a mere rehashing of "a history of taste thathas always been included inhistory of criticism" (77). Nevertheless, Wellekadmitted that he may have made in Theory of Literature a "possibly oversharpdistinction between extrinsic and intrinsic methods," which led to an isolationof works of art in history (67). The gloomy ending of Wellek's article was oftentaken as an epitaph for literary history, but the article surrendered only two of thepresuppositions he adopted from Tynyanov: literary histories ought to rely solely onintrinsic criteria and such literary series constitute an evolution. Wellek particularlyregretted that he found no evolution in his history of criticism: "I myself havefailed in The History of Modern Criticism to construe a convincing scheme ofdevelopment. I discovered, by experience, that there is no evolution in the historyof critical argument" (77). Typical of the ensuing crisis was the question that DavidPerkins posed in 1992 with the much-discussedtitle of his book: Is Literary HistoryPossible? His skepticism was reinforced by post-structuralist and deconstructivetheories, which attacked histories with teleological destinies, and questioned bothorganicist conceptions of history andthe possibility of writing grand historicalnarratives. However, reception theory, Michel Foucault's genetic history, NewHistoricism, and cultural history have opened new historical approaches toliteratureby the time Perkins's book appeared.In the following discussion, I shallindicate how national and transnational literary histories reacted to the crisis ofhistory writing.

  Within national literary histories, the prominent reaction to the crisis of grandnarratives has become simply to abandon continuous historical narrations. Thetrend was set by Denis Hollier's history of French literature,whose methodologyhas since been adopted in a Dutch/Flemish history edited by M. A. Schenkenveld-van der Dussen (1993), a Francophone Belgian one edited by Jean-PierreBertrand(2002), a German one edited by David Wellbery (2004), a Hungarian one editedby Mihaly Szegedy-Maszak (2007), and an American one edited by Greil Marcusand Werner Sollors (2009). They all replace the continuous narrative thread ofliterary history with chronologically ordered independent essays (two-hundred-six in Hollier's French edition), each of which is attached to the date of an eventthat closely or distantly relates to literature. Thus, for instance, an article with theheading "Pour 1e profane," linked to the date December 5, 1905, refers to a vote inthe National Assembly on the Separation of Church and State, and italerts readersto related entries, dated1808, 1898, and January 9, 1959. Hollier'sscheme disperseswriters, works, and themes over several unconnected articlesand it avoids the useof historical periods in the hope that the shortened time scale of the articles willallow more encounters, convergences, and mutations (xx). By these and othermeans, Hollier wanted to achieve a "heterogeneity that escapes the linearity oftraditional literary histories" (xix). Cross references are made here only within asingle article. Hollier admits this loss of historicity by dropping the word "history"from the French title De la litterature fran}aise. In short, this type of approachcuts up literary history, and partly compensatesfor this by linking literature tocontemporaneous cultural and international events.

  2. European Literary Histories

  National literary histories dominated the nineteenth and the first half of thetwentieth centuries, and only few significant comparative literary historieswere published. This changed when the International Comparative LiteratureAssociation, founded in 1955, established in 1967 a Coordinating Committeewiththe charge to publish a series with the somewhat curious title "A ComparativeHistory of Literatures in European Languages." The formulation offered thepossibility of going beyond geographically defined Europe to include, in principle,literatures from North- and South America, Australia and other parts of the worldwhere a European language was officially recognized. Indeed, the series came toinclude a two volume African history titled European language Writing in Sub-Saharan Africa (1986), edited by Albert Gerard, and a three-volume History ofLiterature in the Caribbean (1994-2001), edited by James Arnold.

  The core of the still incomplete seriesis a multivolume literary history ofa geographically defined Europe, which is chronologically divided into periodsand movements, each of which is covered by one or several volumes. The latteris the case with the Renaissance and Romanticism. There are no volumes yet onthe literature of Classical Greece, the Middle Ages, Realism, or Naturalismand some these may never materialize. Progress has been slowed down by theconceptual shifts that comparative literature and the writing of literary historiesunderwent since 1967. The first volumes tended to simply line up articles onnational literatures side-by-side, leaving the comparison and integration of the richmaterial to introductions and the reader.

  Due to the Cold War and a certain inherent West-European bias, the coverageof geographical Europe itself was for a while rather uneven in the series: ofthe East-European literatures, for instance, usually only the Russian one wassystematically included. The series represented an important step towardsglobalizing literary history, but it excluded nations and areas where Europeanlanguages were not official, and, more important, it ignored the native languages innations and regions where a European language was official. In retrospect, a certainEurocentric bias colored this laudable move towards globalizing literary history.According to the charter, the volumes could be published in any major Europeanlanguage, and, indeed, six French volumes and one Germanone has been produced,but due to commercial/financial constraints non-English volumes can now bepublished only with substantial subsidy. Here, as elsewhere, the globalization ofEnglish has given a multicultural project a monolingual bias.

  Another conceptual problem of the ICLA project emerged from the West-European orientation of its founders, who considered it self-evident that the break-down of literary history into periods should follow categories used in France,England, and, to a lesser extent, in Germany. Even so, the periods overlap: theseries contains volumes on Expressionism and Symbolism, but also on Modernism,five volumes on Romanticism, but also two volumes on the 1760-1820 period. Atthe same time, there are also serious gaps: a proposed volume on Naturalism, forinstance, has been delayed because of disagreements on a Europe-wide definitionof what the term actually means.

  Definitions of periods and movements became even more complex once theseries gradually expanded its scope within Europe, and the subject matter broadenedto include relevant elements of literary culture. It was in reaction suchproblemsthat I have proposed within the series a "literary culture" subseries covering not allof Europe but only a region. The four-volume History of the Literary Cultures ofEast-Central Europe (2004-2010) that I have published with my co-editor MarcelCornis-Pope and some hundred-fifty contributors has meanwhile spawned ongoingprojects on the literary history of the Iberian Peninsula and of Scandinavia. The firstvolume of A Comparative History of Literatures in the Iberian Peninsula (2010)has already been published by Fernando Cabo Aseguinolaza and his coworkers.

  I offer the following brief description of our East-Central European project inthe hoop that some of our ideas could be adapted in coping with the larger problemsof literary histories in other parts of the world, including the Far East and South-East Asia. The problems of regional projects start with defining and justifying thecoverage. For our proj ect, we have defined East-Central Europe as a narrow strip ofland stretching from the Baltic countries to the Balkans, but opinions disagree onthe question what to include on eastern and southern sides, and many would arguethat Austria should also be included. However, we conceived of the region in termsof imperial dominations from Russia in the East and the German-speaking nationsin the West. The southern part has been occupied for centuries by the OttomanEmpire, which has meanwhile been pushed back but left powerful religious andcultural tradition behind.

  The region is one of the world's richest multilingual and multicultural areas,but this very richness has led to endemic internal ethnic, religious, and borderconflicts. We wanted to put the region's literature on the map for both internaland external readers. Today, the inhabitants of the various nations in East-CentralEurope tend to know only their own language and literature, often through thedistorting lens of nationalism, Nazism, and Stalinism. Since no independentcountriesexisted in the region around 1800 (the starting date of our history) andonlyindependent, though often unstable, ones after 1989 (our flexible terminal date),national struggles for independence have powerfully shaped the various literatures,and, vice versa, national poets and national literature have played a crucial rolein each nation's struggle for independence. National songs, legends, myths, andliterature have in Friedrich Schlegel's sense shaped the identity of each nation, butthey have alsoproducedhistorical misunderstandings, military conflicts, and ethnictensions thatled tocultural impoverishment, monolingualism, and monoculture. Inthe last two-hundred years, much of the region's great literature has been written inexile and emigration.

  Due to East-Central Europe's specific social, political, and artistic history,West-European period terms have only limited relevance. We dividedthe region'sliterary history between 1800 and 1989 into three flexible periods, which applyto all the literatures of the region, even if they did not take place simultaneously:(1) National Awakening, (2) Modernism, and (3) Soviet Domination. The first andthe third term are specific to the region, while Modernism, adopted from the West,needed to be redefined, because currents from the West enteredin East-CentralEurope into complex interactions with responses to nineteenth-century nationalism.Modernism opened a window to the world, but the westward gaze couldnot losesight of the local ethnic traditions and struggles. We chose "Soviet Domination"as a category for the period 19451989 because the political system duringthis time reconstituted all aspects of literary life in the region, though not quiteuniformly. The cultural policies and the literary lives in the Baltic countries, whichwere incorporated in the Soviet Union, differed considerably from say Poland,Yugoslavia, Romania, or Albania, where nationalist currents expressed themselvesin various forms.

  This is not to suggest that national and political issues fully determinedthe region's literary history. Instead of telling one single literary history, we"scanned" the region's history from five different angles, andonly the first scanfollows politics closely. Here we show how writers participated in such keyevents as the revolutions of 1848, the two world wars, the revolutions of 1956and 1968, and the turnover of 1989-1991and we analyze the changing memoryof these events in literary works. At each of the key dates, conflicting nationalnarrative strands encounter each other, showing alternative perspectives. Thesecond part of the first volumeconsiders the history of literary periods and genresfrom a specificallyregionalperspective. Wefollow, for instance, the emergenceof the region's historical novel, and we show East-Central Europe's importantcontributions to the emergence of such new twentieth-century genres as thereportage, the lyrical novel, fictionalized autobiography, literary theory, and thecabaret.

  Our second volumefocuses on multilingual and multicultural cities and smallerregions. It includes literary histories of Riga, Budapest, Trieste, Plovdiv and othercities, as well as multicultural regions like Transylvania and the Vilnius region.Such histories do not cross present-day national borders, but they are genuinelytransnational and comparative. The innovative and far-reaching implications ofthis conception, which may be termed "showing the globe in a raindrop," meritfurther attention. Methodologically, the conception compares with the workofarcheologists, who undertake "vertical" border crossings by unearthing differentcultural layers at a single site, chronologically crossing thereby cultural layers,some of which reveal monocultures, others a cohabitation of several. Such site-specific cross-cultural diggingsmay unearth Hun or Etruscan cultural artifacts inItaly, Viking or Celtic remnants in England, Slavic traces in modern Germany, orevidences of the Roman civilization in the southern part of Europe. Adapting sucha model, one could envisage writing literary histories of Paris, London, Berlin,Shanghai, and other metropolitan centers, whichwould include ethnic, exile, emigreand migrant writing in various tongues.

  Adapting such an archeological model would mean, above all, that literaryhistories should include literatures written not only in the present nationallanguage but also in languages that either have died out at the site or still exist ina minority status. The site could well cover the territory of a whole present nation,but the coverage should be transnational. A further development of such site-specific multilingual literary histories could effectively convert adjectival nationdesignations (e.g., German, Polish, French, or Chinese literature) into geographicalones (literatures written within the border ofpresent-day Germany, Poland, Franceor China).

  Other recent regional literary histories have initiated similar innovations inliterary history. The second volume of the Literary Cultures of Latin Americaa Comparative History (2004) that Mario Valdes and Djelal Kadir haveeditedincludes twenty-three articles on cultural centers, while the first volume ofthe mentioned literary history of the Iberian Peninsula includes Jon Kortazar'sstudy on the history of Spanish-Basque cohabitation in Bilbao (222-36). However,the three regions, East-Central Europe, Latin America, and the Iberian Peninsula,face different multilingual, multicultural, and multiliterary problems. Theethnictraditions are still alive in Bilbao, but they have largely disappeared inEast-Central Europe because of wide-scale elimination of minorities via forcedassimilation, repatriation, the Holocaust and ethnic cleansing, as well as an amnesiaconcerning the literary culture of such vanished minorities. In Latin America, theshared Spanish and Portuguese language allowed writers, ideas, and literary stylestomove from one center to another (Valdes and Kadir 1:xx), whereas linguistic andethnic differences have limited such a circulation in East-Central Europe.

  Regional literatures have started to recuperate the Amerindian literatures inLatin America, the Arab, Jewish, Catalonian, Galician, and Euskadi literatures inthe Iberian Peninsula, and the Romani, Sinti, Yiddish, Armenian, and other theminority literatures of East-Central Europe, but national literary histories stilltend to ignore works not written in the official language of the country. They mayinclude foreign-born writers, but only iflike Joseph Conrad, Emil Cioran,Samuel Beckett, or Vladimir Nabokovthey had mastered the national language.In the East-Central European region, Romanian literary histories have onlyrecently started to include German- and Hungarian-language literatures, Hungarianliterary histories still ignore the once flowering Serbian, Slovak, and Romanianliteratures of Pest/Buda, Lithuanian histories exclude literary works written inPolish or Yiddish in Vilnius, and Baltic national literary histories disregard worksin the Russian language. West-European countries now welcome literary worksby migrant workers and their descendants, but, as far as I know, they include themin their national literary histories only if they are written in the country's officiallanguage. The monolingualism of present literary histories is well illustrated by thementioned newer national literary histories: one covers francophone Belgium whilethe Dutch history also covers Flanders. Migrating writers and literary works carrydouble passports and should be included in the histories of both their native tongueand their residence. Site-specific literary histories could complement national,European and global approaches by avoiding the pitfalls of both monolingualismand bland globalism. They would differ from archeological excavations becausethey would have to involve hermeneutic reflectionsthat turn mere chronology intogenuine history. By turning the gaze inward and backward, site-specific historiescould reveal a teaming and colorful mingling of languages and literatures, atransnational variety of lieux de memoire. They would counterbalance foundationalnational epics that lay claim, like Virgil's Aeneid, on a specific site. The third volume of the literary history in East-Central Europe, titledTheMaking and Remaking of Literary Institutions, focuses on the institutionalstructures within which literature is created, distributed, and received. We discussherepublishing, censorship, theater, the uses of folk poetry, and even the writing ofliterary historiesinstitutions thatwere established to further movements towardscultural and political independence. Our final volume, Types and Stereotypes,covers such historical and imaginary figures as national poets, real and imaginaryfamily members, outlaws, and ghost figures like Dracula and the golem. All thesetypes and stereotypes underwenta series of transformationsfashioned by the socialand national imagination, by processes of canonization, and the emergence of newmedia.

  East-Central European, Iberian, and Scandinavian literary histories modify thevery image of Europe by foregrounding the Eastern, Southern, and Northern liminalterritories, giving themthe recognition that a European literary landscape dominatedby the West has ignored. New concepts of European literature ought to abandon thetraditional focus on Western and Central Europe, and they ought to question therebythe canonized concepts of literary epochs, genres, and movements, all of whichare based on limited notions of European literature, and have fulfilled a colonizingfunction when applied to the literatures "on the margin."The suggested revision ofthe balance between central and marginal literary regions within Europe should, atthe same time,modify the image of a culturally superior Europe, and neutralize theEurocentrism that was so obvious in the early decades of comparative literature.Giving proper recognitionto the liminal literaturesshould also mediate betweenEurope and its adjacent literary traditions, including the Arab, the Turkish, and thePersian ones and those that emerged from the southern part of the Soviet Union.The projected dispersion will have to question the canonized concepts of literaryepochs, genres, and movements. Defmedin terms of West-European phenomena,they all became colonizing forces when applied to the literatures "on the margin."

  Future European literary histories will have to face, then, the double challengeof revising the image of a culturally superior Europe and of rectifying internalsuppressions and imbalances. Initiatives in this direction have been taken notonly in the discussed regional histories, but also in a number of other publicationsand organizations, for instance ina special issue of Comparative Literature onEurope (2006) edited by Susan Suleiman, Theo D'haen's and Iannis Goelandt'sLiterature for Europe? (2009), and in the "European Network for ComparativeLiterary Studies." However, the daunting task of actually writing a comprehensiveEuropean literary history has, to my knowledge, not been undertaken recently.Admirable attemptsof the past, like Mihaly Babits's Az europai irodalom tortenete(1936), would have to be redone with different conceptions and via teamwork.Interestingly, such attempts are being made today on a global scale.

  3. A Globalized Literary History?

  Writing regional literary histories has a two-fold significance for globalizing thefield: they provide regional models that can be applied to other regions, and theyrepresent concrete steps towards a global conception of literary history. However,as I shall now show, they raiseissues that become even more complex on a globalscale.

  Goethe was not the one who coined the term World Literature, but as DavidDamrosch shows in What is World Literature? (2003), his reflections on the conceptare still stimulating, even if they do not congeal in a single meaning. The problembecomes even more complicated if we reflect on the history of world literature.To paraphrase Kant, comprehensive histories tend to become either encyclopediaswithout conceptual frames or global generalities lacking local content.

  Franco Moretti's theoretical and empirical studies on the novel are, perhaps,the most daring recent attempts to cope with a "embarrassment of riches" inglobal literary history. Morettibroadens the traditional focus on canonized worksand reaches for a quantitatively comprehensive coverage. His testing ground isthe world history of the novel, of which he had published a five volume Italiancollection, the Il romanzo (2001-2003), even before has formulated his theoreticalprinciples in "Conjectures on World Literature" (2004) and in Graphs, Maps, Trees.Abstract Models for a Literary History (2005). The volumes on the novel do notconstitute, however, a formal history, and they containbig gaps next to excellentessays on individual works and writers. Here too, the European coverage is clearlybiased. East European Nobel-Prize winners like Elias Canetti, Isaac BashevisSinger, and No Andric are done away with a passing mention, in Andric's casewith the sheer remark that he was one of the greatest novelists of the twentiethcentury (4: 264). Writers from the Baltic countries, the Balkans, Romania, andmany other countries and regions are strikingly absent. Hopefully, they will beincluded in future accounts thatMoretti and his team continue to prepare. In his2004 article, Moretti proposed that, next to traditional close reading, global viewsof literature also need "distantreading," for this yields fewer elements, and hence asharper sense of their interconnection ("Conjectures" 151). We do, of course, needinterconnections, but "distant reading" may yield schematized overviews, deprivingthereby literature of its richness.

  Moretti's historical analysis of detective fiction in the "Tree" section ofGraphs, Maps, Trees (2005) may serve as an example of his abstract forms, thistime adapted from evolutionary biology. The premise here is that genres, sub-genres, and stylistic devices like the free indirect discourse change under newhistorical and social conditions. One would readily consent, if Moretti did notessentialize the meaning of individual works. The mutations that political, social,and market forces bring about, are defined with respect to an unchanging original,and history modifies genres but regards the meaning of individual works fixed,though one would expect that later developments of a genre modify also the imageof its beginnings.

  Other literary historians have more modest aims. Theo D'haen's ConciseHistory of World Literature (2011) is a highly informative introduction to thoughtson world literature and the history of world-literature histories. Though it offers noworld-literature history of its own, it includes good summaries of debates on therelevant publications of Moretti and others. One section in the Companion volume,co-edited with David Damrosch and Djelal Kadir (2011), offers a "history of WorldLiterature through significant writers and theorists from Goethe to Said, Casanovaand Moretti." A corresponding Reader has been published in 2012. Of the plethoraof recent reflections on globalizing literature I can mention here only two collectionof essays that Gunilla Lindberg-Wada has edited and published in 2006: LiteraryHistory: Towards a Global Perspective and Stuing Transcultural LiteraryHistory.

  While I admire the learning and ingenuity of these new approaches, Icannot help asking whether a full globalization of literary history is viable, andwhether the broadening coverage of the world map can adequately representthe cohabitation of literary cultures. We should remember Siegrfried Kracauer'sobjections to writing world histories in general. Using the term Ungleichzeitigkeitdes Gleichzeitigen (asynchronicity of the contemporaneous) that the German arthistorian Wilhelm Pinder had introduced in 1926, Kracauer argues that globalizingthe set of simultaneous phenomena will make it inevitably more difficult to bringthem together under a common concept, for the various parts of the world run ondifferent clocks ("General History" 569).

  Kracauer's point applies to one of the most vexing issues we have alreadyencountered: the difficulty of finding period concepts for broader literary histories.Ifperiod concepts coined in Western Europe ill fit East-Europeanphenomena,they are even less applicable elsewhere. As Mario Valdes andelal Kadir writein their literary history of Latin America: "all classifications based on Europeanmodels" break down in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Latin America (1:xviii). Is it possible to find common period concepts for a globalized history ofliterature if individual nations, regions, and continents run through such differentphases? Concepts like Renaissance, Baroque, Romanticism, or Expressionism canobviously not be globalized.

  Traditional literary periods have been based on the internal features of literaryworks, usually in combination with dominant social and political trends. Theproblem is twofold: first, internal literary features, social conditions, and politicalhistory differ from one language area to another, and secondly, the crossing fromone period to another occurs at different points of the time scale. Searching forglobal parameters, there seems to be no way to resolve the second issue, foritseems impossible to globally synchronize the transitions from one period to thenext. However, we may identify a skeletal global structureif we direct our attentionto the technologies of writing and communication, which have recently attractedgrowing interest due to digitalization. In my opinion, the best guide for this is notamong recent future-oriented studies but Walter J. Ong'sauthoritativebackwardperspective, Orality and Literacy; The Technologizing of the Word (1982). Ong'sprime concern is the oral tradition, but he follows its history through the periodsof handwriting,and printing, stopping short of digital word processing. As his titleindicates, this is a technological history of words and literature, but Ong, as wellas others, insists that the changing technologies have defined not only how but alsowhatis being written: "writing restructures consciousness" (Ong 77). Of course,inventing the alphabet, printing, and the computer offeronly four very generalperiods, but each of these can be broken down into subdivisions. Ong, for instance,speaks of a secondary orality, based on the invention of film, photography andtelephone, while Friedrich Kittler, who juxtaposes the Aufschreibesysteme (systemsof writing) around 1800 and 1900, ascribes the transformation around 1900 largelyto the emergence of the typewriter.

  It is in this sense that Wilt Idema and Lloyd Haft have distinguished alreadyin a 1996 Dutch introduction to Chinese literature between four major periods inChinese literary history: 1) the period of orality that ends with the invention ofpaper around 100 A.D.; 2) a period of handwriting that ends with the general spreadof book printing around 1000 A.D., 3) a third one that ends with the introduction oflithography and other modern printing techniques around 1875; and 4) the periodafter 1875 (Idema 22). Because of the specificity of the Chinese signs and theindependence of Chinese history, these periods do not coincide chronologicallywith the key dates of word technology elsewhere, but the stages are neverthelessthe same and may offer mileposts for a global view of literary history.

  While all literary works can be place into the suggested sequence of globalperiod concepts, this alone does not yield rich interconnections. I want todistinguish between two basic comparative methods, and illustrate each with anarticle that compares Chinese and German literary works. Both will appear in thenext issue of arcadia, a journal of comparative literature of which Professor VivianLiska and I are co-editors. The first one, by Johannes D. Kaminski, combinesa joint study of Cao Xueqin's Hong Lou Meng and Johann Wolfgang Goethe'sWilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, both first printed in the 1790s, with reflections aboutthe possibilities and limitations of comparing literary works that had no historicalcontacts between them. Kaminski focuses on the function of mythologicalmetanarratives in the two novels and shows, above all, the differences. Thesecond one, by Arne Klawitter, studies the adaptation of the Chinese Shijingby German poets who knew no Chinese. In this case, historical contacts exist,but they are questionable: the expressionist poet Albert Ehrenstein published aGerman adaptation that he called not translation but Nachdichtung, a sort of freereformulation of the Chinese originals. Klawitter suggests that it was actuallyan Umdichtung, a refunctionalization of the poems under radically differentcircumstances. Of course, Ehrenstein was severely taken to task by critics, amongthem Chen Chuan, who claimed in his doctoral dissertation that Ehrenstein's"bombastic" and "pathos-laden" poems did not do justice to the original ones(104). Chuan, who later became Professor of German literature in Kunming andat other Chinese universities, was, in a sense right, but he failed to understand thatEhrenstein reused the originals to attack in the 1920s the social injustices of hisown society.

  Here we touch on fundamental questions of adaptation. Chuan's premisewas that fidelity to the original is the only valid criterion to judge adaptations.Although many critics still insist on such a fidelity, attitudes towards adaptationhave drastically changed in the last decades and most people recognize today thatadaptations and sophisticated imitations can fulfil new and innovative functions.Witness the greater freedom granted to translators and stage directors, but also theburgeoning studies on adaptations of novels to film, television and other media. Thecentral thesis of Linda Hutcheon's bookA Theory ofAdaptation (2006) is preciselythat we should not judge adaptations by their fidelity to the original, and not belittleworks just because they are adaptations rather than original works. The latter pointis beautifully thematized already in Chapter 17 of Cao Xueqin's Hong Lou Meng.In preparation of the Imperial Concubine's brief return home, her family sets upsumptuous gardens and buildings, which need to be decorated with poems. JiaZheng invites a number of distinguished poets for this baptism, but delegates theleading role to his son Bao-yu, not because he thinks so highly of him but becausehe is eager to criticize his offspring. At a building of "quite another order ofelegance," Jia Zheng challenges Bao-yu come up with poetic lines, but belittles theresult as imitation. The literary gentlemen disagree: "There is nothing wrong withimitation provided it is done well. After all, Li Bo's poem `On the Phoenix Terrace'is entirely based on Cui Hao's `Yellow Crane Tower,' yet it is a much better poem"(Cao 342). They defend thereby a poetics that dominated not only classical Chinesepoetry, but also such Western traditions as Petrarchism and Baroque poetry.Romanticism turned against such traditions by championing originality and genius,but the romantic tradition was itself saturated with adaptations.

  Works of literature and other works of art are neither fixed nor eternal butconstantly change. Oral poetry, which started to use language for artistic purposes,had no original standard but consisted of performances that were constantly revised,passed on, and readapted to suit new audiences. Converting oral poetry into writtentexts, a momentous process of adaptation, certainly did not give texts a standardform, as Hong Lou Meng itself demonstrates all too well. Hence, I propose that abroadened notion of adaptation could become the very heart of a global concept ofliterary history. Such a broadened conception would recognize not only that literaryworks are constantly reshaped by new historical, cultural, and social contexts butalso that new philological shapes emerge via re-edition (or even digitalization) oftexts; adaptations via translations, staging, musical setting, and visual illustrations.Literary works constantly mutate, andthis endless process of adaptation constitutesa global literary history that crosses the borders of historical periods and nationalcultures.

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