Postcolonial singularity and a world literature yet-to-come

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This article considers the challenge posed by Gayatri Spivak to rethink world literature along postcolonial lines as an ethical encounter with alterity. Read in this way, Spivak participates in a reframing of world literature that retains the critical gains made by postcolonial theory and suggests that the work of world literary analysis ought not necessarily be de/prescriptive (classifying and ordering) but might involve a contestation of the power relations that structure the world. In developing this argument, I draw on four further perspectives: Pascale Casanova's problematic assertion of literary singularity in The World Republic of Letters; Fredric Jameson's theorization of “third world literature” as counterpoint to Casanova's limiting understanding of national literature; Gilles Deleuze, who offers a way to rethink world literature in a process of becoming; and Édouard Glissant, whose work proposes a “relational” vision of difference that, like that of Spivak, demands an ethical, imaginative response to literature as literature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-259
JournalAngelaki : Journal of the Theoretical Humanities
Issue number4
Early online date27 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015


  • World literature
  • Gayatri Spivak
  • Pascale Casanova
  • Gilles Deleuze
  • Fredric Jameson
  • Édouard Glissant
  • Singularity
  • Minor literature


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