- Jun 13, 2015
On 25 May, a keynote lecture was given by Professor Chiara Mengozzi of the University of Hradec Králové. It was held at the Boissonade Tower, 25th floor, on Ichigaya Campus. The title of the lecture was "The usefulness, and the disadvantage, of the concept of 'World Literature' in literary studies". Acting as discussants for Professor Mengozzi's keynote lecture were Professor Asako Nakai of Hitotsubashi University, and Professor Kensuke Kasahara of Hosei University, and Professor Nao Sawada of Rikkyo University who also provided interpretation. The role of Chair was filled by Professor Shin Abiko of Hosei University.
Professor Mengozzi's presentation began with an explanation of the concept of "World Literature" as advocated by Goethe in the 1820s. At that time, Goethe asserted that the human race was heading towards a universal age, with the way opening towards a "world literature". It would start life within individual countries, and manifest itself through an increase in exchange with other countries, for which translation would prove important. According to Goethe, cultural distinctiveness and difference of each country were the factors that evoked interest in countries other than one's own, therefore achieving a universal value that transcended national borders. Professor Mengozzi commented on the modernity of this thinking, but went on to indicate that what Goethe termed "universality" is unlikely to be found today, and that in literature, without elements such as "the marketplace" or "hegemony" today, there can be no discussion of them.
Following on from this debate, Professor Mengozzi firstly focussed on the definition of the notion of what was originally meant by "world literature", showing it to be a corpus that included a basis of values. It was deemed necessary for "world literature", along with that basis, to extend from a Western European centre to as far as Asia, Africa, and South America. Secondly, in relation to this, Professor Mengozzi criticised the Pascale Casanova/ Franco Moretti way of thinking that a world system of literature has a centre from which the periphery spreads, asserting, rather, the need to observe multi-centres and multi-directional movements. Thirdly, in accordance with this diversity, also in the research of "world literature", we find there is no over-emphasis of "distant reading", but a continuing importance attached to "close reading". As practical examples of this, Professor Mengozzi mentioned two works by two famous authors: (Maps by Nuruddin Farah, and The remains of the day by Kazuo Ishiguro). We saw clearly how close reading can reveal universal elements hidden in their unique detail.
The discussion that took place after the presentation included the issues of "world literature" in Marxism, the impossibility of translation, the disparity of context between the situation during the 19th century and today, and the issue of the language of translation and hegemony. A lively debate developed over these issues. The theme of this keynote lecture - to what extent can the best works of literature, that transcend era and nation, achieve universal value? - is, in fact, reminiscent of the idea behind EuroPhilosophie of "crossing borders". The fact that the participants here have crossed national borders in order to debate these issues could be considered to hold its own global, universal value.