The Challenge of World Literary History


The writing of history has encountered many challenges in 20th-century theoretical discussions, while postmodernism and deconstruction in particular have made literary history all but impossible. In this talk, I first review the discussions of the challenges by some literary critics and historians from René Wellek and Fredric Jameson, to Hayden White and David Perkins, and I argue that the crisis of writing history is very much a Western problem, while in China, history remains important and a hotly debated intellectual issue. Writing literary history beyond national and regional frames adds to the difficulty, but a world literary history from a global perspective also makes it possible to rethink the writing of history and its critique, and to revitalize literary history in the context of world literature.

Speaker Biography:

ZHANG Longxi, MA, Peking (’81) and Ph. D., Harvard (’89), had taught at Peking, Harvard, and the University of California, Riverside, and is currently Chair Professor of Comparative Literature and Translation at the City University of Hong Kong. He is elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, also of Academia Europaea, and President of the International Comparative Literature Association for 2016-19. He serves as an Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of World Literature and an Advisory Editor of New Literary History. He has published more than 20 books and numerous articles in both English and Chinese in East-West comparative studies. His major English book publications include The Tao and the Logos: Literary Hermeneutics, East and West (Durham: Duke UP, 1992); Mighty Opposites: From Dichotomies to Differences in the Comparative Study of China (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1998); Allegoresis: Reading Canonical Literature East and West (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2005);Unexpected Affinities: Reading across Cultures (Toronto: Toronto UP, 2007); and most recently, From Comparison to World Literature (SUNY Press, 2015).

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