Recoding World Literature: Libraries, Print Culture, and Germany's Pact with Books

Recoding World Literature: Libraries, Print Culture, and Germany's Pact with Books

by B. Venkat Mani

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Overview

Winner, 2018 Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Studies in Germanic Languages and Literatures, Modern Language Association

Winner, 2018 German Studies Association DAAD Book Prize in Germanistik and Cultural Studies.

From the current vantage point of the transformation of books and libraries, B. Venkat Mani presents a historical account of world literature. By locating translation, publication, and circulation along routes of “bibliomigrancy”—the physical and virtual movement of books—Mani narrates how world literature is coded and recoded as literary works find new homes on faraway bookshelves.

Mani argues that the proliferation of world literature in a society is the function of a nation’s relationship with print culture—a Faustian pact with books. Moving from early Orientalist collections, to the Nazi magazine Weltliteratur, to the European Digital Library, Mani reveals the political foundations for a history of world literature that is at once a philosophical ideal, a process of exchange, a mode of reading, and a system of classification.

Shifting current scholarship’s focus from the academic to the general reader, from the university to the public sphere, Recoding World Literature argues that world literature is culturally determined, historically conditioned, and politically charged.

Editorial Reviews

Modern Language Review

Mani painstakingly reclaims the debate about world literature from university classrooms, moving away from abstract theories and philosophies to provide a compelling account of the lives of books. As literature continues to migrate through translation and onto digital platforms, Recoding World Literature provides a solid point of departure from which to chart the next stages of the story.

Choice Humanities Reviews

The reader comes to appreciate what Mani emphasizes in his long introduction and throughout, which is “that world literature is historically conditioned, culturally determined, and politically charged,” but at the same time is a "shared cultural heritage of human beings. This is a fascinating and engaging study.

Berlin Review of Books

[O]ne of the most remarkable features of Mani’s book is its capacity to put the typically discrete discourses of world literature, print culture, and library science into intimate conversation. In expansively conceptualizing world literature as constructed by the processes of production, movement, and encoding, Mani offers a deeply nuanced portrayal of global networks of writing and readership. Such an effort not only represents a dramatic reframing of the enterprise of world literature but parses the occluded relations between readers, writers, states, and texts that other recent studies of world literature have failed to fully interrogate.

From the Publisher

"Recoding World Literature is a work of stunning scope. Drawing on archives across languages and countries, from Goethe to Pamuk, and taking seriously the well-known fact that world literature was in origin a German idea, Mani provides a fresh and alternative history of this now hegemonic concept. The discussion about world literature is about to undergo a definite reorientation."—Aamir Mufti, University of California, Los Angeles

"Venkat Mani's engrossing study of 'bibliomigrancy' makes an important contribution to studies of world literature and the politics of culture, probing the values—and the exclusions—encoded in libraries, translation series, and now the digital archive. Every bibliophile will want to add this sparkling and thought- provoking book to their personal library."—David Damrosch, Harvard University

"This is a splendid, erudite, sophisticated, and eminently readable book that makes vital, original interventions in several interlocking fields in the humanities."—Leslie Adelson, Cornell University

Aamir Mufti

Recoding World Literature is a work of stunning scope. Drawing on archives across languages and countries, from Goethe to Pamuk, and taking seriously the well-known fact that world literature was in origin a German idea, Mani provides a fresh and alternative history of this now hegemonic concept. The discussion about world literature is about to undergo a definite reorientation.

Alexandria: The Journal of National and International Libraries and Information Issues

[Recoding World Literature] is not just a book about books, the physical objects, but it traces the global pathways of texts and translations in many formats, from papyrus to PDF. […] [The non-specialist reader] will be richly rewarded by a work that, while focused on Germany, is global in ambition and reach.

The Germanic Review

[O]ne of the key achievements of Recoding World Literature [is] to have demonstrated how national debates, politics, and institutions shape world literature, both as an idea and as a practice. [...] Mani’s methodological reorientation toward publics that are organized around books and libraries enables him to chart new empirical territory for world literature studies.

Leslie Adelson

This is a splendid, erudite, sophisticated, and eminently readable book that makes vital, original interventions in several interlocking fields in the humanities.

German Studies Review

...I certainly hope our future has more works such as this in it—rich and insightful histories of the theory and practice of world literature as embodied in specific national or linguistic traditions.

David Damrosch

Venkat Mani’s engrossing study of ‘bibliomigrancy’ makes an important contribution to studies of world literature and the politics of culture, probing the values—and the exclusions—encoded in libraries, translation series, and now the digital archive. Every bibliophile will want to add this sparkling and thought- provoking book to their personal library.

Comparative Literature

This book is an indispensable addition to the libraries of not only world literature scholars, but also those interested in the circumstances that have shaped the developments of literary circulation in general and libraries in particular, whether these libraries are public domains, private collections, or digitally constituted.

Alexandria: The Journal of National and International Libraries and Information Issues

[ Recoding World Literature ] is not just a book about books, the physical objects, but it traces the global pathways of texts and translations in many formats, from papyrus to PDF. […] [The non-specialist reader] will be richly rewarded by a work that, while focused on Germany, is global in ambition and reach.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780823273416
Publisher: Fordham University Press
Publication date: 12/01/2016
Pages: 360
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 16.50(h) x 0.90(d)

Customer Reviews