The term world literature was coined almost 200 years ago and 100 years later it developed into a discipline within literary studies. This essay investigates several scholars’ ideas and suggested theories about the field, mainly from a European and North American perspective. World literature’s origin, development, and modern conceptions are presented and described. By passing on relevant information, the reader is given an overall understanding of world literature. One conclusion is that, although scholars sometimes disagree, there is an aim, and a possibility for a unanimous definition and approach of the discipline. Another conclusion is that assimilation of world literature can evoke respect and acceptance towards all people and all cultures, due to its all-inclusive, humanistic, and global essence.
One finding from the analysis is that world literature is closely linked to globalization and other major changes in society. Another finding is that the field is defined by what is written, how it is read, and interpreted. It is also defined by what is included or excluded. There are some works that, due to high quality or local appreciation, belong in world literature’s sphere but, for various reasons, do not. Further finding shows that contributions circulate in multiple directions, often crossing over culture, language, and nation borders. World literature evolves and changes, sometimes because of readers’ choice and subjective value or disvalue of works which, as a consequence, form a discipline with variable characteristics. More findings from the analysis show that world literature holds both eternal qualities and contemporary values due to, for instance, cultural or economic influences in society. It also shows that certain contributions can be exploited in order to serve self-interest and present political agendas.
2014. , 33 p.