Thursday’s Discussions

Franco Moretti, Atlas of the European Novel (JCH)

–       Moretti clearly has links to the Russian formalists

–       Vygotsky, Propp, Bakhtin, etc.

–       can we forgive Moretti for his oversimplification of Russian ideas?

–       the nation state had a life in literature in 17th c. drama, long before the novel – can we go along with his point about the presence of the nation state in the 19th c. novel

–       physical movement of characters in space is often juxtaposed with psychological/mythical/intellectual movement

–       different bodies of times and readers would obviously have an impact on how his categories of space would be expressed in these novels

–       geography – “internal border as the on/off switch of the historical novel”

–       great point about metaphorical language as especially strong at border regions – once the border is mastered, their descriptions become much more prosaic

–       Russian Romantic writers were drawn to the borders of Russia – exotic Other that has a positive effect on the narrator

–       is Modernism an attempt to force us to think of familiar spaces in metaphorical terms (Woolf’s London, Joyce’s Dublin, Faulkner’s post Civil War South)

–       can we map the imagination of the writer while walking through these places?? Would Moretti’s work help us to understand the projects of Ian Gregory??

Barbara Cassin, Untranslatables – “sign”

–       Augustine is given tremendous prominence here; even later thought is drawn in relation to his categories

–       author/auditor dyad need a common bond – the sign has to be readable somehow

–       for the authors here, this is conventional language and this is part of this text’s Eurocentrism

–       advertising and the reading of images adds a spatial dimension to this which is totally absent in the article

–       if sign has something to do with translatability, then the creator of the sign must change his/her terms in order to be understood

–       time and the sign: what happens to the sign when the referent is gone

–       example of Ridley Walker

–       how universal are the methods that Moretti proposes?

–       *Moretti’s method rests upon the intelligibility of signs, but cannot address signs as such – only themes and narratives; it reads as formalism in the mode of Propp, Jakobson, et al

–       which leads to the digital humanities: is it restricted to the quantifiable? What about inner spaces, or maps that could not be represented by GIS?

–       GIS’s ideal is translatability – but it does not necessarily provide a qualitative vision of the world


Welt/World” as Untranslatable from Cassin

–       there is an entry for “Welt/world” but NOT for “earth”

–       uses the dichotomy of world vs. universe

–       world is also connected to temporality and translatability

–       aeon as both “age” and “world” in Greek, which identifies “world” with eternity – like the endlessness of matter (as opposed to our planet, which is time-bound)

–       anthropocene as the idea of a human-centric world, rather than the Gaia theory vision of the earth has a macro ecosystem

–       notion of the household as the fundamental unit of culture => from Aristotle’s Politics

–       ktisis– “creation” in Greek

–       the homely quality of earth can also have a spiritual, noumenal sense

–       connection of nature as world and nature as “kindness”

–       “world” seems more translatable today than “earth”

–       in Japanese, there are four possible words for “world” – one of them uses the character that also means “domain”; has a temporal sense as well and a very material, secular feel to it

Moretti on worlds and “world literature”

–       if Moretti is inviting readers to use his methods in different environments, then can’t we escape the translatable/untranslatable binary?

–       Apter aspires to a plural sense of untranslatability that Moretti would share

–       Moretti recognizes the potential of multiple versions of world

–       *his arguments are many times not new – but he is offering a method that can be used to explore and expand upon them in new contexts by other scholars


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