• What Is a World?: On Postcolonial Literature as World Literature

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    Pages: 408
    Sales/Territorial Rights: World
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  • Acknowledgments  vii

    Introduction. Missed Encounters: Cosmopolitanism, World Literature, and Postcoloniality  1

    Part I. The World of World in Literature in Question

    1. The New World Literature: Literary Studies Discovers Globalization  23

    2. The World According to Hegel: Culture and Power in World History  46

    3. The World as Market: The Materialist Inversion of Spiritualist Models of the World 60

    Part II. Worlding and Unworlding: Worldliness, Narrative, and "Literature" in Phenomenology and Deconstruction

    4. Worlding: The Phenomenological Concept of Worldliness and the Loss of World in Modernity  95

    5. The In-Between World: Anthropologizing the Force of Worlding  131

    6. The Arriving World: The Inhuman Otherness of Time as Real Messianic Hope  161

    Part III. Of Other Worlds to Come

    7. Postcolonial Openings: How Postcolonial Literature Becomes World Literature  191

    8. Projecting a Future World from the Memory of Precolonial Time  216

    9. World Heritage Preservation and the Expropriation of Subaltern Worlds  246

    10. Resisting Humanitarianization  278

    Epilogue. Without Conclusion: Stories without End(s)  310

    Notes  333

    Select Bibliography  369

    Index  383
  • "Drawing from four critical philosophies–idealism, Marxist materialism, phenomenology, and deconstruction–theorist Pheng Cheah invites the reader to reconsider the presuppositions that underpin contemporary theories about world literature. Works from luminaries Amitav Ghosh, Michelle Cliff, and Timothy Mo, among others, providethe reader with concrete examples of Cheah’s theories in action."

    "[T]hrow[s] an intriguing new light on why and how 'world literature' succeeds in generating plurality and disruption rather than falling back into a flattening familiarity."
     

    "Cheah strategically broadens the notion of world literature beyond its most common reference points, which too often constrain literatures and the worlds they offer to their spatial geographies and global circulations."

    Reviews

  • "Drawing from four critical philosophies–idealism, Marxist materialism, phenomenology, and deconstruction–theorist Pheng Cheah invites the reader to reconsider the presuppositions that underpin contemporary theories about world literature. Works from luminaries Amitav Ghosh, Michelle Cliff, and Timothy Mo, among others, providethe reader with concrete examples of Cheah’s theories in action."

    "[T]hrow[s] an intriguing new light on why and how 'world literature' succeeds in generating plurality and disruption rather than falling back into a flattening familiarity."
     

    "Cheah strategically broadens the notion of world literature beyond its most common reference points, which too often constrain literatures and the worlds they offer to their spatial geographies and global circulations."

  • "Setting out to provide a systematic and analytical account of the notion of the world—and worlding—Pheng Cheah rethinks world literature not as the inevitable outcome of globalization, or as a reaction to the world system, but as part of the capitalist conceptual reconfiguration of the world. Powerful and provocative, What is a World? makes a significant, timely, and radical intervention."  — Simon Gikandi, Robert Schirmer Professor of English, Princeton University

    "Unafraid of controversy, Pheng Cheah prompts his readers to think and rethink their own critical, philosophical, and literary commitments. A remarkable book." — Peter Fenves, Joan and Sarepta Harrison Professor of Literature, Northwestern University

    "Wide-ranging and complexly argued, What is a World? gives us a theory of world literature inspired by Heidegger, Arendt, and Derrida, locating the variety and volatility of the literary field in the finiteness of humans and the destabilizing infrastructure of time."  — Wai Chee Dimock, Yale University

    "Pheng Cheah makes a compelling argument for literature’s worldly force, its ways of impacting the ethico-political problems of the world. This is exactly what the humanities need now." — Robert JC Young, Julius Silver Professor of English and Comparative Literature, New York University

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  • Description

    In What Is a World? Pheng Cheah, a leading theorist of cosmopolitanism, offers the first critical consideration of world literature’s cosmopolitan vocation.  Addressing the failure of recent theories of world literature to inquire about the meaning of world, Cheah articulates a normative theory of literature’s world-making power by creatively synthesizing four philosophical accounts of the world as a temporal process: idealism, Marxist materialism, phenomenology, and deconstruction. Literature opens worlds, he provocatively suggests, because it is a force of receptivity. Cheah compellingly argues for postcolonial literature’s exemplarity as world literature through readings of narrative fiction by Michelle Cliff, Amitav Ghosh, Nuruddin Farah, Ninotchka Rosca, and Timothy Mo that show how these texts open up new possibilities for remaking the world by negotiating with the inhuman force that gives time and deploying alternative temporalities to resist capitalist globalization.
     

    About The Author(s)

    Pheng Cheah is Professor of Rhetoric and Chair of the Center for Southeast Asia Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Inhuman Conditions: On Cosmopolitanism and Human Rights and Spectral Nationality: Passages of Freedom from Kant to Postcolonial Literatures of Liberation.
     
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