Borrowing Privileges: World Literature and Germany's Pact with Books

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Abstract: Drawing on his current book project, in this paper Mani underscores that the proliferation of world literature in a society is a function of a nation’s relationship with print culture: its pact with books. Locating world literature at the intersection of libraries, print-cultural studies, and translation histories, Mani argues, opens up new significations for our understanding of world literature as a comparative project. While current scholarship has engaged with the distribution, circulation, and reception of a world literary artifact beyond the point of its national origin, much less attention has been paid to situations where world literature is proactively suppressed, or even manipulated to serve dominant national ideologies. To this end, Mani focuses on the political manipulation and ideological transformation of the Gothean term Weltliteratur in Germany by the cultural outfits of the Nazi party. 

Bio: B. Venkat Mani is associate professor of German, and affiliate faculty of Global Studies, South Asia Studies, DAAD Center for German and European Studies at UW-Madison. He is the author of Cosmpolitical Claims: Turkish-German Literatures from Nadolny to Pamuk (University of Iowa Press, 2007) and co-editor of two special issues: “Cosmopolitical and Transnational Approaches to German Studies” (TRANSIT 2011), and “What Counts as World Literature?” (Modern Language Quarterly 2013). He is founder and co-director of UW-Madison’s World Literature Research Workshop (2007-present), and is co-PI of the project, “Bibliomigrancy: World Literature in the Public Sphere” (2014-16), a Mellon Sawyer Seminar in Comparative Cultural Studies. He was Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scholar at the Leipziger Buchwissenschaft and German National Library (2011-12). He is completing a book project called Borrowing Privileges: World Literature and Germany’s Pact with Books (1800-2010).