Concepts of Nature
Landscapes of Ausonius, mountain retreats of Xie Tiao, mediaeval paradise-gardens: can underlying similarities of deep structure and social function be traced in the work of classical European and Chinese writers? A panoramic cross-cultural comparison of approaches to the natural world.
Reviving its classical definition, ‘rule of the propertyless’, Luciano Canfora recasts the story of democracy in Europe as one of successive defeats, with lessons from Louis Napoleon on the use of suffrage as legitimation for oligarchic rule. Dylan Riley assesses a remarkable historical polemic from the Italian philologist.
World Literature Without a Hyphen
Literary studies with global ambitions are on the rise. But do they truly embrace the literatures of the world? Alexander Beecroft offers a typology of historically distinct kinds of writing that reaches further into the past and wider across human languages than any hitherto.
The Novel: History and Theory
Moretti’s 5-volume Il romanzo recast the field of the novel—historically deeper, geographically wider, morphologically broader. What are the implications for its theory? Prose, adventure and xiaoshuo as explanatory vectors; and prevalence of older power relations in the bourgeoisie’s hegemonic literary form.
Assessing Chris Wickham’s sweeping historical survey, Framing the Early Middle Ages, Brent Shaw questions linear narratives of a transition from Roman Empire to feudalism. What conclusions might derive from alternative analytical categories—markets, wars, modes of belief?
Role of Force in History
Gopal Balakrishnan takes issue with an ambitious attempt to apply evolutionary paradigms to human history, which would locate the wellsprings of conflict in the combative make-up of the species. Azar Gat’s War in Human Civilization as an instance of neo-social darwinism adapted to the multicultural spirit of the age.
From Buddenbrooks to Babbitt?
Donald Sassoon on Victoria de Grazia, Irresistible Empire: America’s Advance Through 20th-Century Europe. How the US reshaped European ideals of consumption and culture, from the stately world of Thomas Mann to that of McDonald’s and José Bové. All the way from the club to the kitchen, learning from Duluth and San Bernardino.
Evolution and Literary History
A landmark engagement with Franco Moretti’s triptych of essays, Graphs, Maps, Trees. What forms of logic underpin the use of evolutionary models to lay bare the survival strategies of the detective story, or trace the mutations of a border-hopping stylistic technique? And what political implications follow from basing an account of literary history on the outcome of the market?
Literature as a World
A manifesto for the accurate conjugation of the aesthetic and political, from the author of The World Republic of Letters. What is the nature of the global literary space in which writers must produce their work? The limits of analogies based on Braudel or Wallerstein, and fields as employed by Bourdieu. Hierarchy, inequality and strategies of reversal in ‘the long and merciless war of literature’.
Graphs, Maps, Trees - 2
After ‘Graphs’ (see NLR 24), maps: geography, or social geometry? Literary spaces plotted as competing fields for industrialization, peasant rebellion, state formation. The second of Moretti’s three essays conceptualizing patterns of genre and history, form and force.
Graphs, Maps, Trees - 1
The first of three essays setting out to demonstrate the power of abstract models to revolutionize our understanding of literary history. What do the quantitative curves of novel production tell us about the interplay of markets, politics, sexes, generations, in the life and death of literary forms?
Elgin in China
The sacking of the Emperor’s Summer Palace in Beijing by an Anglo-French expeditionary force was one of the high-points of nineteenth-century imperialism. The lucidity of its perpetrator, Elgin, offers a paradoxical contrast with the chorus of apologists for Anglo-American interventions today.
The Origins of Atlantic Liberalism
Peter Gowan on Richard Tuck, Rights of War and Peace: Political Thought and the International Order from Grotius to Kant. The origins of ‘liberal’ interventionism by the NATO powers today in the doctrines of colonial retribution and expropriation of the seventeenth century.
Government by Appearances
Louis XIV’s passion for dancing, and its metamorphoses, at the beginnings of a society of the spectacle. Peter Wollen looks at the birth of ballet as a projection of state power, and the bonding of elites that court entertainment bequeathed to modern democracies.
Petrus Dadi Ratu
What lay behind the greatest counter-revolutionary massacre of the 20th century, the extermination of the Indonesian Left in 1965? How did the Suharto dictatorship come to power? The extraordinary testimony of a survivor on the bloody mystery at the source of its tyranny.