hive mind consensus


yo. the term ‘world literature’.

is that problematic?

  • yes
  • no
  • depends

0 voters


Is that just not all literature ever written?

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well that’s what i’m asking you


I guess it’s generally used to refer to literature that does not originate in the traditional “western” canon, so yes, as a concept it has issues.


this is where my mindset is (we’re debating a catalogue title here) but want to make sure i’m not overthinking


If I went into a bookshop wanting to expand my literary horizons I would find a “world literature” section a lot less intimidating than separate sections for regions or countries, which would make me feel out of my depth as soon as I realised that I didn’t know where Gabriel Garcia Marquez is actually from.

However, I am generally against the categorisation of “world” as everything that isn’t traditionally English/Western. So yeah, not sure.


I read world literature in the world foods aisle.

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As opposed to other world literature by Aliens and shit?


who could forget ‘Martians are from Earth, Martianettes are from Pluto’


You’re thinking of world music.

“World literature” was the exact opposite. It used to refer to the classic European masterpieces but these days it encompasses the variety of the world’s literary cultures and their distinctive reflections and refractions of the political, economic, and religious forces sweeping the globe.

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It’s difficult, because whether we like it or not, the canon does “exist” in a sense, and therefore there also exists writing outside of that canon. I guess my instinct would be to categorise whatever the book is in “Country’s / Language” literature, rather than world literature.


At the very least I’d say the word “world” is utterly redundant until we discover alien civilisations and start translating their works.

If categorising based on nation is what’s going on here and someone’s looking for a bucket for anything else then far better to go with English Literature, American Literature, Chinese Literature and then just Literature.

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yeah this is the counterpoint.

like, anything landmark that gives an insight into lit culture across the globe. that’s basically what the catalogue is, so it’s whether world literature is an okay title basically

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no it’s not a bucket for anything else. it’s a catalogue of works that are huge but NOT (initially) in the english language.


I’m thinking of how it might be used in a modern bookshop.

When I did English at university the categories were, broadly, English (and Irish) literature, American literature, Commonwealth literature, and stuff translated from other languages.


World literature as an academic subject covers “any literary tradition, in any language, moving beyond national frames to simultaneously discuss and develop the cosmopolitan threads of a variety of literary traditions”.

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Used now, especially in the context of a shop rather than academia, I would probably just assume it means “work in translation” tbh.


That’s not going to produce a very intuitive set of shelves though is it.

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Reckon expanded horizons would be a good section name

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Riiiight, gotchya. :+1:

I mean, it’s not my place to start discussing the use of terms that I barely understand, but I guess where I’m coming from is whenever I hear the term “World Xxxxx,” it does make me a little uncomfortable as it always feels to me like someone’s just lumping everything non-Western into a bucket :slight_smile:

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