Close Reading: A Preface


In an article entitled “Conjectures on World Literature,” published in 2000, Franco Moretti writes against the persistence of literary approaches based on the notion of national literatures. To break out of the confines of this perspective would be to open oneself to the project of a world literature, mentioned by Goethe in a conversation with Eckerman—that is, to understand the context of literary production in terms of something like a world market, akin to the one Marx would theorize in his writings on capitalism.Goethe’s ambition, suggests Moretti, is an antidote to the narrow-mindedness of literary scholars who, because they restrict their readings to their immediate geopolitical boundaries, fail to see that in the modern world (whose dawning Goethe presciently perceived), cultural circulation in its literary form exceeds national borders.

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