Against Global Literary Studies

Literary studies has taken a global turn through such institutional frameworks as global romanticism, global modernism, global anglophone, global postcolonial, global settler studies, world literature, and comparative literature. Though promising an escape from parochialism, nationalism, and Eurocentrism, this turn often looks suspiciously like another version of Anglo-European imperialism. This essay argues that, rather than continue the expansionary line of recent decades, global literary studies must allow other perspectives to draw into question its concepts, practices, and theories, including those associated with the terms literature, discipline, and comparison. As a settler colonial (Pākehā) scholar in Aotearoa New Zealand, I attend particularly to Māori literary scholars from Apirana Ngata, Te Kapunga Matemoana (Koro) Dewes, and Hirini Melbourne to Alice Te Punga Somerville, Tina Makereti, and Arini Loader. Their work highlights the limitedness of global literary studies in its current disciplinary guise. Disciplines remain important when they bring recognition to something previously marginalized, as in the battle to have Māori literature recognized within Pākehā institutions. What institutionalized modes of global literary studies need, however, is not discipline but indiscipline: a recognition of the limits of dominant disciplinary objects, frameworks, and practices, and an openness to other ways of seeing the world.

This is the abstract to an essay that I wrote for the fifteenth anniversary issue of New Global Studies and which is now online here. Please note that the essay is behind a paywall. Please contact me if you would like me to send you a copy of the essay.

Published by Jacob Edmond

Jacob Edmond is associate professor in English at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He is the author of Make It the Same: Poetry in the Age of Global Media (Columbia University Press, 2019), A Common Strangeness: Contemporary Poetry, Cross-Cultural Encounter, Comparative Literature (Fordham University Press, 2012), and of numerous essays, which have appeared in journals such as Comparative Literature, Contemporary Literature, Poetics Today, Slavic Review, and The China Quarterly.

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