50 excellent world literature essays

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One temptation is for writers to hope that enough thin-sliced national audiences, stacked together, might be world enough to support them. Through globalization, the US and China can become equally unequal! The question is what we make of it. It has its own economy, consisting of international publishing networks, scouts, and book fairs. It has its prizes: the Nobel, of course, but more powerful and snazzier is the Man Booker, and the Man Booker International. Its political arm is PEN.

And it has a social calendar full of literary festivals, which bring global elites into contact with the glittering stars of World Lit. What happens at these festivals? No debate; no yelling; some drinking; lots of signing of books. They represent the state of World Literature at the present time. Everywhere, a political writer has acquired a quieter global successor. Insurrectionary Gordimer has given way to the sedulously horrified Coetzee; ranting Grass to mourning and deceased Sebald; angry Rushdie to shitty Rushdie.

Of course there was something wrong with the old militancy, too. World Literature was not often called that when there were still three worlds: first capitalist , second Soviet-style socialist , and third could go either way. Since the cold war, what it has gained in circumspection it has lost in direction. In spite of the increasing worldliness of writers, the contemporary world often fails to impress itself on World Lit with much force.

Michael Ondaatje, a Sri Lankan—born Canadian of Dutch ancestry and hero to many world litterateurs, has been exemplary in the worst way, with his sinuous capacity to suggest a political mind without betraying a real one. The irony of his name was not lost on him. An older global novel was animated by an attempt to win for fiction not only a new language and form but a role in securing an entire realm of freedom.

But the political liberation failed, or was botched or betrayed; to write as if third-worldism were still a source of promise would be an especially tedious kind of cant. In the absence of political prospects, writers have produced backward-glancing narratives of trauma like the atom bomb going off at the end of The English Patient. Past horrors, unlike contemporary ones, also tend to be events liberal readers agree about. But they displace the contemporary world, locating politics always elsewhere , in some distant geography and irrecoverable past. Present day confusions and controversies are neglected or sentimentalized.

The key institution in the creation of World Literature has not been the literary festival, or even the commercial publishing house, but the university. Every World Lit writer seems to have an appointment. University-produced postcolonial theory was also part of the education of World Lit. Universities that celebrate their commitment to diversity — of cultural identity, if not class background — owe it to themselves to hire writers of odes to hybridity.

His work of recent decades bears the mark of the global in being more broad than deep. Universities began to hire and promote writers from the global south around the time that the national liberation movements failed, prompting many to flee abroad. After the cold war, the US was also willing to grant visas to writers, like Gordimer, whose fellow-traveling sympathies had previously kept them out.

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These southern writers turned into guest workers of a kind, their employment dependent on a permanently foreign identity. The result was uprooting without assimilation; foreign writers transformed exile into professional expertise and literary theme. Fundraising draws at the university and stars of the festival circuit, they were invited to speak on panels about the loss of self under migration, or to meditate on the bloody crossroads of politics and literature in rooms where nobody raised his or her voice.

Across the hall, the purely academic panels in the s were, for better and worse, more vituperative. Bereft of both a native and a general metropolitan audience, with a readership geographically broad but socioeconomically thin, they floated in the wake of the academic boat steaming ahead of them. Academic theorists of hybridity, the postcolonial, and World Literature gave novelists an authority that no longer emanated from themselves. The novelists must have felt required to perform their identity in a solemn key, since few if any wrote self-burlesquing comedies of exile as Nabokov had in Lolita and Pnin.

The university even more quickly became basic to the careers of younger writers. You can see this in the way it suddenly intrudes, like a dissonant chord, in the sophomore work of World Lit authors: the trace of the moment when they took their first teaching job. The narrator of the earlier book told a straightforward story of flight from a failed revolution; the second novel told a similar story, but presented it metafictionally in a classroom setting.

The university always threatens to insulate World Lit from the world it wants to describe and address. His gamble that Gikuyu was more threatening to power than English proved correct: he was thrown in prison by the Moi dictatorship an injustice protested by writers around the world , where he composed the first Gikuyu novel, Devil on the Cross , on prison toilet paper; in , he went into exile.

All material questions were replaced by issues of language. In , he gave the Wellek Library lectures, published the next year as Globalectics : an unhappy attempt to fuse theory and autobiography, crowned with a dreadful title. One writer who avoided the University Archipelago was V. Naipaul, a genuinely dangerous and unstable quantity.

He and Rushdie were perhaps the last World Lit writers to elude the university. Alas, Rushdie; alas, Naipaul. Each novelist is now a Faust, relegated, as if in exchange for his achievement, to a private hell. Rushdie emerged from the fatwa a damaged writer, his puns reflexes, his recourse to myth and fable showing signs of hackery. He took to appearing onstage with U2, grinning with Bono under the suspended Trabants of their Zooropa tour.

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There is one word I can find nowhere in the text of The Enigma of Arrival. Other major writers from the periphery have had happier or, at least, less compromising fates. The Russian Eduard Limonov, a significant figure on the national level, has remained outside World Lit circulation and off the festival circuit, probably because he is such a jerk: he goes uninvited, one imagines, less because of flirtations with fascism than because the last time he attended a literary festival he hit the British writer Paul Bailey in the head with a bottle of champagne.

Saramago, in his weaker work, could be sentimental, but his greatest novels were those of an unrepentant Communist and anti-Christian blasphemer for whom humanism was the foundation of politics but no replacement for it. What they want is some soft criticism that does not make them feel too uncomfortable. World Literature, in the form gestured at by Goethe and now canonized by the academy, has become an empty vessel for the occasional self-ratification of the global elite, who otherwise mostly ignore it. The contemporary phase is different, less contentious. There is another path.


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The historic rival to a World Literature made up of individual national authors was the programmatically internationalist literature of the revolutionary left: journalism, treatises, and speeches, novels, poetry, plays, and memoirs necessarily written in a given vernacular but always aimed at a borderless audience of radicals.

This was an internationalism embodied by Marx and Engels themselves, German-speakers at ease in English and French, able to read Latin and Italian, who corresponded from England with comrades born as far away as Russia. The politics of 19th-century radicals required them at least to listen to speeches delivered in heavy accents, and often to go into exile where they would become the guys with the accents. Prison was another common destination for socialists and anarchists, and years behind bars offered, if nothing else, the company of foreigners and plenty of time to read and write.

When it came to an audience, the reach of the international left considerably exceeded its grasp. This was even more true after World War I than before: the Western Marxists who grew into intellectual maturity during and after the s, though polyglot, were less aware of arguments made in languages not their own or in French than earlier generations of comrades had been. Like international socialism, a truly internationalist literature has so far enjoyed hardly a moment of historical realization.

Uncompromising work across the world suggests the outlines of a thorny internationalism opposed to the smoothly global. In India, a host of English-language writers from Samanth Subramanian and Tabish Khair to Roy herself and, in the vernaculars, Girish Karnad and Mahasweta Devi, have been lending their efforts to a more combative public sphere. A developed internationalist literature would superficially resemble the globalized World Lit of today in being read by and written for people in different countries, and in its emphasis on translation and, better yet, on reading foreign languages.

But there would be a few crucial differences. These include project , opposition , and, most embarrassingly, truth. Global Lit tends to accept as given the tastes of an international middlebrow audience; internationalism, by contrast, seeks to create the taste by which it is to be enjoyed. The difference, crudely, is between a product and a project. The project can only be one of opposition to prevailing tastes, ways of writing, and politics. Global Lit, defined more by a set of institutions than a convergence of projects, treats literature as a self-evident autonomous good, as if some standard of literary excellence could be isolated from what writers have to say and how they say it.

Literary excellence aside, Global Lit makes no judgments. Food, as in sustenance, is more like what we have in mind.

I even miss Scottish Pony, even though he was on a lot of psychotropic medications, had to shower four times a day to keep calm. Our programs could neither detect nor explain the combinations that led to the emergence of style. Cashing in on stereotypes about female readers, and female nature, is the foundation on which the Atlantic was built. All the problems of the world dissolve in a warm open-source bath!

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Below is a set of tips that will help you achieve this. When writing an essay or speech through process analysis , keep these tips in mind:. Writers will have an easier time writing process analysis essays and following the above guidelines for topics they know well.


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To begin, choose a subject that you enjoy writing about and know that you can explain well. These prompts offer potential process analysis essay topics to get you started. Share Flipboard Email. Richard Nordquist is a freelance writer and former professor of English and Rhetoric who wrote college-level Grammar and Composition textbooks. Updated October 03, Tips for Writing a Process Analysis Essay When writing an essay or speech through process analysis , keep these tips in mind: Include all steps and arrange them in chronological order.

Explain why each step is necessary and include warnings when appropriate. Define any terms that may be unfamiliar to readers.