This brief essay on a huge subject is very much thinking in progress.  NLR and the author wish to thank Diaspora for collegial courtesy in allowing the publication of this essay; it will also appear in a forthcoming Diaspora special issue on globalization, edited by Roland Greene. To achieve a manageable scope for discussion, I engage key programmatic works by three Western comparatists, representing three generations over the last half-century: Erich Auerbach, Edward Said, Franco Moretti. I select works that are roughly evenly spaced—the early 1950s, the mid-1970s, and 2000—although I will not be dealing with them in chronological order. For the argument developed here, criticism deals concretely with the language of texts, while theory is cast in abstraction, at a distance. By this definition, a lot of what we call theory, because it is thoughtful—much of the work of Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Paul de Man, Jacques Derrida—would count as criticism.
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- Franco Moretti: Conjectures on World Literature Nearly two hundred years ago, Goethe announced the imminence of a world literature. Here Franco Moretti offers a set of hypotheses for tracking the birth and fate of the novel in the peripheries of Europe, in Latin America, Arab lands, Turkey, China, Japan, West Africa. For the first time, the prospect of a morphology of global letters?