Medieval Studies

MDV 392M • Early Glbl Lit, 1000-1500ce

40190 • Heng, Geraldine
Meets M 3:00PM-6:00PM CAL 419
(also listed as E 392M)
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EARLY GLOBAL LITERATURES, 1000-1500 CE

Globalization is the name we have today for a 21st century phenomenon in which new technologies, new modes of transnational labor and post-Fordist industrialization, and political interdependencies among nations, have shrunk the world into an intricately intermeshed globe.  But globalism itself is a phenomenon that is centuries old.  World systems theorists have formulated models of an economically interlinked world from the early modern period onward.  But the globalism of an earlier, premodern period of roughly a thousand years, 500-1500 CE is still insufficiently understood and insufficiently theorized.  In world systems theories, moreover, the economic is emphasized, and the cultural and the social tend to recede from view.  

This global literature course is an invitation to investigate and theorize key features that demonstrate the interconnectivity of the early world, c. 500-1500 CE, and to understand their meaning and implications, in order to correct several lacunae.  The purpose of studying early globalisms here is not to claim that globalization per se has always existed, but to map the specific character of the globalisms of different eras, so as not to collapse the particular configurations that globalism has taken into a catch-all, teleological end-point of “globalization” that weakens our understanding of each historical era, including today.  The course aims to correct and augment global studies theorization that emphasizes the economic over the cultural, social, and literary.

Please note: “Global literature” in this seminar is not only defined by the David Damrosch notion of “world literature” as specifying texts where “the world is in there,” but also conjures with the concept of worlding—with literature that is created by the world, with elements that come to it from different places, cultures, and temporalities.  The twin focus, thus, is both on literature that thematizes the world, and on literature that has been crossculturally, and transnationally created and “worlded.”