Beyond Professionalism: The Pasts and Futures of Creative Criticism
The Critic as Amateur
Seeing through the concept of World Literature
Journal of World Literature
Less concerned with the concept of World Literature than with the promise and perils of conceptualization, this essay considers what experiencing some forms of writing as world literature might involve. Using J.M. Coetzee’s In the Heart of the Country (1977) as an illustrative example, it addresses questions of circulation, translation, writing systems, book history, and literary geography in the context of recent academic debates about world literary studies. It concludes by revisiting Rabindranath Tagore’s landmark 1907 essay “World Literature,” arguing that it remains an indispensable guide to experiential reading and anti-conceptual thinking.
For Rosinka Chaudhuri
A finger is needed to point at the moon, but what a calamity it would be if one took the finger for the moon.
Ancient Zen saying
Trigger warning: the following contains little conceptual discussion as such. Taking inspiration in part from the Zen Buddhist tradition, it seeks to show what contemporary debates within world literary studies might gain by moving beyond or simply outside discussions of that kind. The reason? Some literary works circulate in many languages, scripts and media, across multiple histories and locations. Readers, even multilingual ones, are finite beings bound (but not trapped) by time, place and language. With some forms of literary writing, the primal simplicity and complexity of the reading experience trumps theoretical knowledge, particularly when it comes to concepts like “world,” “literature,” and “world literature.”
Beyond the Ancient Quarrel
In Plato's Republic, Socrates spoke of an 'ancient quarrel between literature and philosophy' which he offered to resolve once and for all by banning the poets from his ideal city. Few philosophers have taken Socrates at his word, and out of the ancient quarrel there has emerged a long tradition that has sought to value literature chiefly as a useful supplement to philosophical reasoning. The fiction of J.M. Coetzee makes a striking challenge to this tradition. While his writing has frequently engaged philosophical subjects in explicit ways, it has done so with an emphasis on the dissonance between literary expression and philosophical reasoning. And while Coetzee has often overtly engaged with academic literary theory, his fiction has done so in a way that has tended to disorient rather than affirm those same theories, wrong-footing the normal processes of literary interpretation.
This volume brings together philosophers and literary theorists to reflect upon the challenge Coetzee has made to their respective disciplines, and to the disciplinary distinctions at stake in the ancient quarrel. The essays use his fiction to explore questions about the boundaries between literature, philosophy, and literary criticism; the relationship between literature, theology, and post-secularism; the particular ways in which literature engages reality; how literature interacts with the philosophies of language, action, subjectivity, and ethics; and the institutions that govern the distinctions between literature and philosophy. It will be of importance not only to readers of Coetzee, but to anyone interested in the ancient quarrel itself.
Coetzee’s Critique of Language
Beyond the Ancient Quarrel: Literature, Philosophy, and J. M. Coetzee