A Cosmopolitan Approach to Literature : Against Origins and Destinations book cover
1st Edition

A Cosmopolitan Approach to Literature
Against Origins and Destinations

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ISBN 9781032267128
December 16, 2022 Forthcoming by Routledge
392 Pages

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Book Description

This cross-disciplinary approach to literary reading of any provenance based on an "experimental cosmopolitan" epistemology de– and recontextualizes the texts from the points of view of multiple cultures and historical moments, enriching interpretation and aesthetic experience beyond the backgrounds of the present reader and the origin of a particular literary discourse. Trusting the authority of an author or an "original" text and ignoring the fundamental plurilingualism of the literary experience obstructs the wealth of cosmopolitan reading in a globalized and fragmented world. A thorough critique of both local and overarching theories. in clear dissent from the binaries of "decolonial theory" and the overextension of "nomadic theory," supports a precise research and teaching methodology at variance with past trends of Comparative and World Literature,." Considering literature as the aestheticized use of language, which is a universal, the many analyses provided can be extrapolated to other genres, eras and cultural areas.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Cosmopolitan Reading, How and Why?


Theory in motion

1 "Power Failure in Paris": Against Local Theory

2 Locations and Dis-Locations of Theory: Towards a Theory without a Fixed Address


Universals and World Literature

3 Universals in Theory and Practice

4 The World Literature Controversy

5 Worlding and Localizing Fiction


Cosmopolitanism Revisited

6 Cross-cultural Negotiation, Comparison, Comprehension

7 Cultural Cosmopolitanism as Experiment

8 The Literary Construction of Cosmopolitan Consciousness


Elusive Identities, Deceptive Origins and Destinations

9 Unselfing Literary Studies: Against "Idemtity"

10 The Ironies of Authenticity

11 Ambiguous Mobilities: How Cosmopolitan is Nomadism?

12 A Labyrinth of Margins: Mimetic Desire and Native Impersonation


The Pragmatics of Outgoing and Incoming

13 Exos as Eros, and Vice Versa

14 Heteroglossia as Experiment and Cosmopolitan Performance

Excipit: The Personal Touch



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Didier Coste is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Université Bordeaux Montaigne. After studying Law, he received PhDs in French (Interarts) Studies from the University of Sydney and in Hispanic Studies from the University of Provence, and his Habilitation in Comparative Literature from the University of Lille. He has taught in Belgium, Australia, France, the United States, Canada and Tunisia. He was twice a fellow of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He has published some 150 articles in English, French and Spanish in the fields of Literary Aesthetics, Poetics, Cultural and Translation Theory, and Narratology. His book Narrative as Communication (1989) was considered as a landmark contribution to Narrative Theory. He is now working on Conversations with Hanuman. Studies in Modern Indian Literature and Culture. Coste is also a trilingual novelist and poet; his latest books of poetry in English were published in Sydney (2015) and Calcutta (2019). As a literary translator, he was the recipient of a major French award in 1977.


"In this challenge to multicultural business-as-usual, Didier Coste calls on us to develop better ‘theoretical fictions’ about culture, identity, language, and belonging. Reading with an open mind is for him the upshot of a radically democratic engagement with the one ‘anthropological universal,’ the unity of our species, led by 'an intuitive empathy for the not-yet-known.’ A ‘thrilling discomfort’ emerges from the diversity of his chosen texts. A lifetime of thinking, reading, translating and dialogue has gone into these pages."

-Haun Saussy, University Professor, Comparative Literature and East Asian Studies, University of Chicago. Member, American Academy of Arts and Letters. Past President of the ACLA.

"As human beings, we are all born local and provincial, but the beautiful thing about human beings is the ability to transcend our "natural" or "native" provincialism. Didier Coste’s Cosmopolitan Approach to Literature is a powerful call to liberate us from "the constraints and delusions of insular, fixed identities." With the danger of rising nationalism and even tribalism in our world today, nothing can be more timely, relevant, and important."

-Zhang Longxi, Chair Professor, Chinese and History, City University of Hong Kong. Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters and of Academia Europeae. Past President of the ICLA.