The World Republic of Theory: Epistemic Inequality in World Literature Studies

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Speaker: Chen Bar-Itzhak (Haifa University)

Chair: Dr Michelle Kelly (Oxford)

This talk is concerned with the unequal distribution of epistemic capital in the academic field of World Literature, and calls for an epistemic shift: a broadening of our theoretical canon and the epistemologies through which we read and interpret world literature. First, this epistemic inequality is discussed through a sociological examination of the “world republic of literary theory”, addressing the limits of circulation of literary epistemologies. The current situation, I argue, creates an “Intellectual Captivity”, the ethical and political implications of which are demonstrated through a close reading of the acts of reading world literature performed by scholars at the center of the field. A few possible solutions are then suggested, drawing on recent developments in Anthropology, allowing for a redistribution of epistemic capital within the discipline of World Literature: awareness of positionality, reflexivity as method, promoting marginal scholarship and a focus on “points of interaction”.


Comparative Criticism and Translation

Contact name: Dr Eleni Philippou
Contact email:
Audience: Open to all