This book is the second volume of the international book series New Perspectives in Reading 19th-Century Russian Literature. The series in 2008 set for purpose to investigate into the historical, theoretical and methodological aspects of the possibilities for new approaches to reading 19th-century Russian literature in various contexts of world literature, literary theory and semiotics of culture. The essays of the first volume were dedicated to the theme Russian Text of the 19th Century and Antiquity. The authors of the present collection of essays – from Austria, Estonia, Hungary, the Netherlands, Russia, and the USA – put in center stage important issues of cultural dynamics, seen in various contexts of intertextuality, intermediality and the interdiscoursive practice of aesthetic communication. Special attention is made to the poetics and semiotics of textual, medial and cultural frontiers involving both conceptual reelaboration of relevant theoretical issues and concrete literary and cultural case studies.
My paper addresses both Bulgarian (more widely, East-European) literature (especially in the first two parts) and developments that bear on the larger framework in which literary history operates today. I revisit the notion of "minor literatures" and show it to be an historical construct with a specific lifespan. I also examine the ambiguity of the project of "minor literatures," poised as it has lately been between an understanding of "minor" as a potential social and political energy that originates in the writing of a minority within a dominant majority ("minoritare Literatur"), and an evaluative notion that sees " minor literatures" as small ("kleine Literatur"), derivative, deprived of originality when measured by the yardstick of " mainstream literatures." The first of these two perspectives is sustained in Deleuze and Guattari's classic book Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature; the second one has a longer pedigree that goes back to the intricate history of Eurocentrism since the 18thcentury.
The Cambridge Companion to World Literature introduces the significant ideas and practices of world literary studies. It provides a lucid and accessible account of the fundamental issues and concepts in world literature, including the problems of imagining the totality of literature; comparing literary works across histories, cultures and languages; and understanding how literary production is affected by forces such as imperialism and globalization. The essays demonstrate how detailed critical engagements with particular literary texts call forth differing conceptions of world literature, and, conversely, how theories of world literature shape our practices of readings. Subjects covered include cosmopolitanism, transnationalism, internationalism, scale and systems, sociological criticism, translation, scripts, and orality. This book also includes original analyses of genres and forms, ranging from tragedy to the novel and graphic fiction, lyric poetry to the short story and world cinema.
Failed attempts to create a unified cultural and literary sphere in the ‘second world’ are also at the centre of Rossen Djagalov’s contribution, which deals with two special features of the institutionalization of literature in the Soviet bloc: the unusual formats in which the new cultural empire was to be moulded, and the frequent substitution of individuals with appropriate life histories for office holders with clearly defined functions. The starting point of the researcher’s analysis of archival materials is that the bureaucracy of Soviet post- war internationalism was literature-centred and, as such, it looked to create institutions that would promote the vision of a unity of cultures (the ‘People’s Republic of Letters’) and not just of a political bloc. Such institutions were international in their very basis, a good example being the International Congress of Writers from People’s Democracies that was planned for July 1948. Even though (or possibly because) the event never took place, the detailed plans for its organization offer an excellent idea of how the Soviet authorities envisioned the ideal cultural cooperation between the satellites and the centre in that special format that was on the border between a strictly organized, formal procedure and informal, personal communication. The congress was supposed to be the platform for subsequent publications on matters pertaining to the literary culture of the ‘Second World’; it was also to become the seal of approval for those who would be invited and would thus become the ‘offi cial masters’ of the new literature in their respective countries. The plans for the congress, in Rossen Djagalov’s view, mark a point of transition from the cosmopolitanism of 1930s Moscow and the cultural pan- Slavism of the earlier 1940s to a new form of cultural internationalism, which would be based on a format habitually associated with a free exchange of opinions, although in this case it was, of course, to be carefully orchestrated and strictly controlled.
In the last ten years or so since the publication of David Damrosch's groundbreaking book What Is World Literature? (2003), one has come to recognize the need to begin to locate the various facets of the currently prevalent Anglo-Saxon discourse of world literature with more conceptual rigour. The first imperative, it seems to me, is to pose the question: where is "world literature" ontologically?2 Some believe it to be an attestable network of texts that, aided especially by the process of globalization, enter into myriad relations—however complex and mediated, but still ultimately demonstrable—that reveal (or sometimes conceal) the hard facts of canon formation, cultural propaganda, ideological indoctrination, the book trade, etc. Others understand world literature above all as a prism through which to analyze literature, a "mode of reading." Sometimes these two beliefs coexist in the same body of work, making it prone to conceptual confusion. A third option, often coexisting with the other two, is to practice "world literature" as an intellectual discourse with clear ideological subtexts, frequently liberal and cosmopolitan. How we actually understand "world literature," as an attestable reality of texts or as a prism—one might even be tempted to add a "unit"—of comparison, in other words, a "mode of reading," is not a metaphysical issue. It has very real implications for the ways in which we approach questions such as how one should try to narrate the history of world literature. In addition to this fundamental differentiation, I also wish to suggest another, more concrete grid that should assist in this effort of locating world literature as a construct. This grid is essentially chronotopic and consists of several vectors. One needs to be aware of at least four major reference points: time, space, language, and, crucially, what one could term self-reflexivity—how literature itself reflects on, and creates images of, "world literature," thus opening up spaces for interrogation and dissent from the currently prevalent notions of world literature. In what follows, I will address these four points in sections of varying length.
The article examines the concept "world literature" and the soviet approaches to it. It order to show a possible new perspective, it offers a new interpretaion of the contribution made by the soviet literary critics.