David Damrosch to Launch Global Studies Initiative's Faculty Seminars

David Damrosch, specialist in modern literature*, is the author of the ground-breaking book "What Is World Literature” (Princeton University Press, 2003). In it he addresses many of the issues that arise out of the expanded canon now taught in many literature departments. In studies of such world lit hits as "I Rigoberta Menchu," and "The Dictionary of the Khazars," he addresses the problem of the readings of these texts which treat them as if they had originated in the English language and in U.S. culture, and directs our attention back to the particularities of their original context and language. While embracing Goethe's dictum that all literature is now world literature, he works hard to keep that idea from reducing all texts to a kind of preprocessed global pabulum.

A more recent work, "The Buried Book," which recounts and reflects upon the history of the discovery of the epic of Gilgamesh, scrutinizes the forces that led to the discovery of the epic, the very specific political struggles attendant upon its emergence as a "great work" of literature, and the various meanings it has subsequently come to have in a variety of contexts, including the contemporary U.S. and contemporary Iraq.

At the same time, Damrosch remains a tireless champion of expanding the canon, teaching a wide array of works from many time periods and many cultures in a way that is truly global, and doing so thoughtfully and well. This is exemplified by his work as editor of the monumental 6-volume work, The Longman Anthology of World Literature, a whole new approach that not only adds a number of exciting yet far less familiar texts to the expected standards, but consistently remains fully attentive to issues of translation, resonance, and contextualization, both within a given work's original context, and across cultural, linguistic and historic divisions.  (from an email by Esther Allen, edited by J D Sallen)

*B.A., Yale (1975); Ph.D., Yale (1980). A specialist in modern literature, Professor Damrosch is also interested in narrative theory, hermeneutics, ancient literature, and the Bible. He is the author of The Narrative Covenant: Transformations of Genre in the Growth of Biblical Literature (Harper and Row, 1987; Cornell, 1991); We Scholars: Changing the Culture of the University (Harvard UP, 1995); a study of academic culture, Meetings of the Mind; What Is World Literature? (Princeton UP, 2003); and articles on Freud, Kenneth Burke, Kleist, Wordsworth, Norse sagas, Bernard of Clarivaux, and Aztec poetry. He is general editor of The Longman Anthology of British Literature and of The Longman Anthology of World Literature (2004). For 2001-2003 he was President of the American Comparative Literature Association. (from Columbia faculty bio)

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