• Weltliteratur as Anti-Fascism: Philology and Politics in Luigi Foscolo Benedetto’s “Letteratura mondiale’”

    Charles L. Leavitt IV (see profile)
    LLC 20th- and 21st-Century Italian, TM Literary Criticism
    Literature, Twentieth century, Comparative literature, Philology, Italian literature
    Item Type:
    World literature, 20th-century world literature
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    The search for a methodology for reading world literature largely entails the development of new critical paradigms, but it has also occasioned a re-examination and rehabilitation of world literature's historical formulations. This essay reclaims a forgotten milestone, the 1946 essay "La 'letteratura mondiale'" by the eminent Italian philologist and comparatist Luigi Foscolo Benedetto. What Benedetto's "letteratura mondiale" theorized, and what his critical and philological writings put into practice, was a mode of oppositional reading in which cultural, historical, and ideological difference would counteract the consensus of the present in order to engender a more cosmopolitan and open society. Benedetto's work was founded upon the belief that informed engagement with the literary text-attentive to its linguistic, thematic, and cultural alterity-can produce and support a burgeoning internationalism that will be social and political as well as literary. As I read him, Benedetto contributed two central insights to the historical development of world literature, insights that remain valuable to the contemporary desire for a truly global approach to literary study. First, Benedetto was more sensitive than virtually any other theorist to the difficulties inherent in the attempt to foster an egalitarian, comprehensive, and trans-national literary methodology. Second, he was more attentive to the power dynamics of literary study than were many of his contemporaries and predecessors, and thus offers a methodology to overcome the cultural prejudices and nationalist ambitions that tend to manipulate textual analyses and literary historiographies. Benedetto's insight into the necessity for a textual engagement that is also a social engagement has become all the more relevant today as scholars work to develop new, ethical approaches to world literature, and new methodologies for reading globally.
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    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    4 years ago
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