, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 349–365 | Cite as

Encountering the world

  • Marshall Brown


David Damrosch’s writings on world literature envision readers “making themselves at home abroad.” This essay argues against his Thoreauvian optimism, given a world that is too large to grasp or to become a home. World literature cannot be naturalized. Drawing on examples from Leibniz, Achebe, Walcott, and Petrarch, the essay proposes that world literature is best identified in terms not of the value of authors and works, nor of the situations portrayed through the characters and plots, but of the nature of the readerly experience. It examines the style of representation in world literature, which Brian Lennon’s book In Babels Shadow productively characterizes as a kind of kitsch reflecting a struggle to communicate. World literature is not, as Damrosch says, “writing that gains in translation,” but writing that retains its alienness even in the original.


World literature David Damrosch Translation Foreignness 


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Comparative LiteratureUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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