The World Literature seminar aimed to examine theoretical and institutional questions regarding contemporary literature and the study of literature in the global era. The accelerated globalization of the 1990s made the question of world literature a rich, central junction that allows for new discussions and points of view but also a retrospective look at earlier global moments. While a global approach to the field of literature flickered briefly in the 19th century, today world literature is very much a reality, bringing about new historical problems and challenges.

On the one hand, the concept “world literature” aims to replace “comparative literature” and to fulfill (at last) the promise of including literatures that go beyond the Western world or the global north. In this optic, everything that was neglected or left out is supposed to return, find its place anew, and be “redeemed.” On the other hand, literature that becomes global, appearing in the “global syllabus” and published mainly in English translation, is still largely the literature of the strong capitalist Western countries, or literature in the process of “Westernization.” In this second optic, world literature threatens to marginalize peripheral literatures that are not visible except under these conditions.