Change and Exchange: Twenty-First Century Anglophone World Literature

We are so often introduced to literature as a part of a national culture or belonging to a particular mode or tradition of writing.  But, then, in the twenty-first century, more and more writing operates beyond established paradigms and circulates ever more freely across all kinds of boundaries. What of the literature that is located in the world, not just in terms of a spatio-geographical entity but more broadly as a community in which ‘world-making’ is issued from multiple sources and sites? What if literature were actually one form that ‘the world’ takes, a place where today’s immense, willing and unwilling flow of people and ideas around the globe can be grasped and understood? 

Scholars have long been interested in twentieth-century literature that tells the national, transnational, colonial, and postcolonial (hi)stories of collaboration, appropriation, and tension between peoples around the globe. But in recent decades it has become possible to see literature as transcending these historical categories, leading to recalibrated formulations of ‘world literature,’ offering us accounts of contemporary life that turn on change and exchange. From this perspective, world literature can be said to traffic in ideas and, by extension, to affect how readers perceive the world.

In David Damrosch’s (2003) view, world literature is at once locally inflected and translocally mobile as it circulates beyond its culture of origin and makes a home in readers across the world. World literature, he insists, is a mode of circulation and a mode of reading. It manoeuvres among a broad readership interested in the exchanges of ideas and, consequently, in changes of established ways of thinking and being in the world. In his radical rethinking of world literature, such literature possesses what Pheng Cheah (2016) calls a normative efficacy, with normative understood as that which ‘ought to be.’ World literature is characterised by its world-making capacity, with world defined as an unmappable temporal and spiritual intercourse, transaction, and exchange aimed at bringing out universal humanity.  Such ‘a being-with’ of people springs from, but is not limited to, the mappable object of the globe. World literature, Cheah claims, not only describes but also intervenes in processes of ‘worlding’ since it opens up possible worlds and allows for the hopeful imaging of future worldwide changes.         









































We welcome potential PhD projects, potential research affiliations, and visits from scholars whose work engages in any way with the worldliness of twenty and twenty-first century anglophone literature.

The forum is also home to the Paul Auster Research Library. 


Name Title Phone E-mail
Bone, Martyn Richard Associate Professor +4535328596 E-mail
Knudsen, Eva Rask Associate Professor +4535328584 E-mail
Lupton, Tina Jane Professor +4593509415 E-mail
Rahbek, Ulla Associate Professor +4535329280 E-mail
Siegumfeldt, Inge Birgitte Associate Professor +4523251644 E-mail
Ward, Kiron Associate Professor +4535333416 E-mail