China’s Multiple Revolutions
Beneath the dramatic social, political and military turmoil of China’s last two centuries, Mark Elvin suggests, lay a series of existential crises amid the collapse of established pillars of authority, whose most vivid expression can be found in two largely forgotten novels of the 1920s and 1970s.
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.
Cosmopolitanism’s Alien Face
The interweaving of literary affinities and cross-cultural influences, occluded by postcolonialist discourse, that characterized a vanished cosmopolitan modernism. Amit Chaudhuri explores paradoxes of belonging and defamiliarization in Bloomsbury and Bombay.
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.
A screenplay from 1935, previously unpublished in English, by arguably the greatest Soviet writer. Amid far-reaching social transformation, notions of love, family and desire are also recast—with serious consequences for the simultaneously innocent and world-weary protagonists.
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.
1940 Survey of French Literature
Benjamin’s last, unpublished report on the literary situation in France. Critical reflections on the fiction, philosophy, memoirs and art criticism of the time—and on Paris, Surrealism and the logic of Hitlerism—moving constantly from the realm of letters to a world at war.
Roberto Schwarz discusses the cultural-political import of rival interpretations of Machado de Assis, within the critical space of world literature. Local versus international, specific versus universal, entangled within the ironies and dizzying narrative disjunctures of a Brazilian master.
Leaving the Garden
Cao Xueqin’s monumental 18th-century novel Honglou Meng—Dream of the Red Chamber—is an undisputed masterwork of world literature. Andrew Plaks on the resonant imagery and dense interweaving of literary and philosophical motifs in a paradoxical Bildungsroman of decline.
Against Historical Realism
Within the epic sweep of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Hayden White argues, three genres are braided together: historical, novelistic and philosophical. If the former two—and the battles, loves and deaths they recount—continue the line of European realism, in the third Tolstoy presents history as a force beyond human control, in a bid to dismantle ideologies of progress.
Do increasingly dark ecological portents indicate a deeper transformation of nature itself? Sven Lütticken elaborates a historicized conception of nature, seeking precedents and contrasts in 19th- and 20th-century philosophies and fictions. Dinosaurs and overmen, Geist and entropic decline in Verne, Nietzsche, Schelling and Smithson.
East as a Career
Oriental orientalism? Amit Chaudhuri unravels assumptions in the charge, levelled at India’s anglophone writers, of exoticizing the Subcontinent for Western markets—and explores alternative strategies of estrangement that would disrupt conventional national narratives.
Conrad’s Inconceivable History
The fascination of Joseph Conrad’s novels with the transformative pressures of capitalist modernity threatens a revelation so intolerable, Mulhern suggests, that it can only be contained within dense narrative strategies of deferral and disavowal.
An Arabian Master
The remarkable life and literary career of Abd al-Rahman Munif, author of the Cities of Salt quintet. Sabry Hafez charts the emergence of Munif’s searing fictions. Evocations of desert traditions, foreign interference, the deformities of despotism and lessons of resistance.
A Brazilian Breakthrough
What made the greatest Brazilian novel of the nineteenth century, Machado de Assis’s Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas, a masterpiece of world literature? The strange fate of realism in an ex-colonial society, in which liberalism was a ruling ideology, modernity a universal ideal, and slavery still an everyday fact of life.
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’.
Politics as Such?
In a wide-ranging debate, discussion of Francis Mulhern’s Metaculture has so far focused principally on its view of the substitutions of culture for politics in the tradition of Kulturkritik. David Simpson considers the other side of Mulhern’s argument, its critical assessment of Cultural Studies. Does a too Anglophone reading of its origins risk reproducing a resistance to the foreign in the discipline itself?
Political education in the dungeons of Barcelona, and the converging tracks of Filipino and Cuban revolutionaries as the 400-year-old Spanish empire enters its final throes. Benedict Anderson concludes his exploration of the late 19th-century world setting of José Rizal’s explosive anti-colonial novels.
In the World-Shadow of Bismarck and Nobel
After the literary revelations of ‘Nitroglycerine in the Pomegranate’ (NLR 27), a new political reading of José Rizal’s astonishing last novel. Imperial power, anarchist bombings and anti-colonial insurrection in the gifted young Filipino’s vision of a 19th-century global landscape.
On Variousness; and On Persuasion
The resources culture may appropriately furnish for a critique of society, not always unpolitical, defended against Francis Mulhern’s case in Metaculture and its sequels. Does criticism persuade by attraction of example, or by force of proposition?
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?
What is Cultural Criticism?
Meanings of culture, the place of politics and role of intellectuals in the practice of criticism, as conceived since Arnold. Replying to Stefan Collini in NLR 18, Francis Mulhern asks how far the arts of a conversible portraiture bear on a critical agenda.