Thinking Literature across Continents

Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 6 illustrations Published: December 2016

Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

Thinking Literature across Continents finds Ranjan Ghosh and J. Hillis Miller—two thinkers from different continents, cultures, training, and critical perspectives—debating and reflecting upon what literature is and why it matters. Ghosh and Miller do not attempt to formulate a joint theory of literature; rather, they allow their different backgrounds and lively disagreements to stimulate generative dialogue on poetry, world literature, pedagogy, and the ethics of literature. Addressing a varied literary context ranging from Victorian literature, Chinese literary criticism and philosophy, and continental philosophy to Sanskrit poetics and modern European literature, Ghosh offers a transnational theory of literature while Miller emphasizes the need to account for what a text says and how it says it. Thinking Literature across Continents highlights two minds continually discovering new paths of communication and two literary and cultural traditions intersecting in productive and compelling ways.


"As Ghosh makes a gesture to develop a new sense of universal literature, one that infuses both Western and developing world literary traditions and histories, Miller reflects on the impact of deconstruction and the dominance of new media in Western culture and society, and provides some redemptive values of literature. Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty." — Y. Shu, Choice

"Immensely knowledgeable and thought-provoking." — Susana Onega, CounterText

"I am grateful to Ghosh and Miller for the seriousness of the thinking in Thinking Literature across Continents, as well as for the honesty of their responses to each other and for the doors that such honesty opens to yet others." — Steven Yao, CounterText

"There is something at once timely, quaint, and moving in Hillis Miller and  Ranjan Ghosh’s ethical commitment to, as Ghosh puts it, 'literary thoughts and communities' (259). Without reverting to full-on quietism, the authors affirm the absolute necessity of poetics, aesthetics, literary theory, close reading, and their own 'conversational becomings' to our future well-being and will to survive (260). — Emily Apter, Wallace Stevens Journal

"The focus of Ranjan Ghosh and J. Hillis Miller’s ambitious, distinctive, and highly engaging book Thinking Literature across Continents is nothing less than the world (the meaning of 'the world' and what is happening to it, above all from the perspective of people involved in education, whether teaching or being taught), together with that seemingly familiar yet peculiar, elusive thing called literature." — Nicholas Royle, Comparative Literature Studies

"The highest appeal of the volume lies in their recourse to supposedly incommensurable discursive and artistic practices. Each issue at the core of the five parts of the book is treated back to back by Ghosh and Miller, with a laudable desire to engage in some ways of exchange." — Laurent Dubreuil, Comparative Literature Studies

"This collaborative, explicitly dialogical volume is a most important intervention in comparative and world literature studies. Its five sections provide vital new perspectives on transcultural entanglement within and across Asia, Europe, and beyond. Ranjan Ghosh's explorations in '(in)fusion,' his transnational, transcontinental theory of literature, combined with J. Hillis Miller's 'unmasking' of ideological distortions via rhetorical readings of individual works, offer timely challenges to past and present configurations of both 'world literature' and 'comparative literature.' Thinking Literature across Continents rightly urges and itself provides an expert example of continued rigor and broader outlooks in our study of literature in all its myriad forms."  — Karen Thornber, Harvard University

"Rejecting any easy binaries between East and West, Ranjan Ghosh and J. Hillis Miller read across not just continents but also languages, traditions, cultures, texts, philosophies, and pedagogies. For Ghosh, method comes before text; for Miller, text comes before method. Working both ends to the middle, the authors elegantly demonstrate a new, powerful, and generous way to do critique, inviting readers directly into their conversation to tease out its productive ruptures, surprising convergences, and thorny entanglements. A highly readable, wonderfully inventive, and deeply satisfying book." — Diana Fuss, Louis W. Fairchild '24 Professor of English, Princeton University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ranjan Ghosh teaches in the Department of English, University of North Bengal, and is the author of, most recently, Transcultural Poetics and the Concept of the Poet: From Philip Sidney to T. S. Eliot.

J. Hillis Miller is UCI Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Irvine and the author of, most recently, An Innocent Abroad: Lectures in China.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface / J. HIllis Miller  vii

Acknowledgments / Ranjan Ghosh  ix

Acknowledgments / J. Hillis Miller  xi

Introduction: Thinking across Continents / Ranjan Ghosh  1

Introduction Continued: The Idiosyncrasy of the Literary Test / J. Hillis Miller  9

Part I: The Matter and Mattering of Literature

1. Making Sahitya Matter / Ranjan Ghosh

2. Literature Matters Today / J. Hillis Miller

Part II: Poem and Poetry

3. The Story of a Poem / Ranjan Ghosh  71

4. Western Theories of Poetry: Reading Wallace Stevens's "The Motive for Metaphor" / J. Hillis Miller  93

Part III: Literature and the World

5. More than Global / Ranjan Ghosh  111

6. Globalization and World Literature / J. Hillis Miller  134

Part IV: Teaching Literature

7. Reinventing the Teaching Machine: Looking for a Text in an Indian Classroom / Ranjan Ghosh  155

8. Should We Read or Teach Literature Now? / J. Hillis Miller  177

Part V: Ethics and Literature

9. The Ethics of Reading Sahitya / Ranjan Ghosh  207

10. Literature and Ethics: Truth and Lie in Framley Parsonage / J. Hillis Miller  232

Epilogue / Ranjan Ghosh  259

Notes  263

Bibliography  291

Index  307
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6244-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6154-1
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