Is global literature possible?

A conversation with Wang Ning about world literature, the politics of translation, and the afterlife of literary works


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Artistic legacies
  • Pedagogy
  • Philosophy / Theory

Organizing Institutions

Slought, Department of English and Philosophy, Drexel University


Jean-Michel Rabaté, Paula Marantz Cohen

Opens to public



4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104


0% Formal - 100% Informal

Slought is pleased to announce "Is global literature possible?," a public conversation with renowned Chinese scholar Wang Ning on world literature and the politics of translation on Tuesday May 3, 2011 from 7-9pm. Wang Ning will briefly present on his work, followed by a conversation with Paula Marantz Cohen, Distinguished Professor of English, Drexel University, and Jean-Michel Rabate, Senior Curator for Discursive Projects at Slought.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's utopian conjecture over a hundred and eighty years ago of "world literature" is no longer prescriptive, but rather speaks to our present aesthetic reality. Today, translation has played a crucial role in introducing world literatures to different cultural backgrounds. Walter Benjamin, in dealing with the task of the translator, pertinently points out that translation endows a literary work with "continued life" or "afterlife," without which many literary works of world significance will remain dead or marginalized.

This conversation begins from Wang Ning's proposal for the further translation of Chinese literature into other major world languages. Inspired by Walter Benjamin's thinking on translation and David Damrosch's emphasis on the role played by translation in constructing world literature, Wang Ning's work argues that increased translation of Chinese literature into English is an urgent task, since world literature is itself constituted by works in different languages.

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Wang Ning is a Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Tsinghua University, and Zhiyuan Chair Professor of Humanities at Shanghai Jiaotong University. Apart from his numerous books and articles in Chinese, he has authored two books in English: Globalization and Cultural Translation (2004), and Translated Modernities: Literary and Cultural Perspectives on Globalizaton and China (2010).

This event has been organized in conjunction with "Translating Modernity and Reconstructing World Literature," a lecture by Wang Ning at 3pm at the Anthony J. Drexel Picture Gallery, Drexel University.