Skip to main content

Literary Worlds and World Literary History

Talk by Eric Hayot, Penn State University

Professor Eric Hayot, Penn State University, discusses his new book On Literary Worlds (Oxford University Press).  In it, he re-reviews literary history of the last 400 years from the perspective of literary worldedness--producing a more global and less Eurocentric theory of literary development. 
In his most recent book, On Literary Worlds, Eric Hayot argues that contemporary debates about world literature and world literary systems can be rethought through an attention to the world-creating force of aesthetic objects. As he rethinks from the ground up our concepts of literary progress and historicity, Hayot re-describes the history of modern literature as we know it (or as we think we know it), developing new concepts and new formal languages to describe the aesthetic “physics” of the socially and imaginatively possible. Connecting this physics to historical shifts in world-view ranging from Copernicus to Marx, Don Quijote to Battlestar Galactica, On Literary Worlds shows how the very notion of the modern is, at heart, a cosmographical social form, and opens vast new directions for the future analysis of the activity and force of literature. Eric Hayot is Professor of Comparative Literature and Asian Studies at Penn State University. He is the author of The Hypothetical Mandarin: Sympathy, Modernity, and Chinese Pain (Oxford, 2009) and Chinese Dreams: Pound, Brecht, Tel quel (Michigan, 2004); his latest book, On Literary Worlds, appears from Oxford this October. His essays on comparative literature, Asian American fiction, contemporary poetry, and aesthetic worldedness have appeared in Representations, PMLA, NLH, MLQ, and other journals.