Globalisation to a certain level of homogenisation, as this

Globalisation
can be defined as the process of world integration that is both economic and
cultural, a multidimensional phenomenon encompassing economic, cultural,
ideological, and political aspects. The definition of World Literature faces a
greater discourse. The word ‘World’ calls up aspirations to true universality
and perhaps, in the present climate the world global is more applicable as it
unintentionally evokes phenomena like global capitalism and global warming.
‘Global’ literature reflects globality in triumphs, inequalities and
deformations. World Literature is in itself is a style and a genre we have
created – we use capitals letters to dictate that. (N+1, 2013). The discussion of
what World Literature refers to is relevant in determining whether or not
globalisation has led or is leading to a homogenisation of that literature.

Today’s
globalized world is certainly an exciting time for world literature, with the
means of circulation being greater than ever before and progressing still at an
exponential pace, however, this limitless consumer audience has the potential
to homogenise world literature in a detrimental fashion. In the first, it is
important to remember that we are inhabiting a world of unequal access to
information and literature, this also mean that distribution of content is
unequal. Moretti (2005), discusses the term as literature of the capitalist
world-system, and so, like that system, ‘one and unequal'(2005: 56). Moretti
talks of one world literary order, that is unequal due to the existence of
core’s and periphery’s. Europe, as a core, inevitably has a direct impact on
the literature we value most, and so it is this work that is predominantly
circulated into the peripheries, as it is the same nations that define the
system, that also control the mass means of communication. This does indeed
lead to a certain level of homogenisation, as this one worldly system is
controlled by capitalism, abiding to the law of supply and demand, working
towards economic growth, a central definition of Globalisation. Literature then
in modern production exists largely as a product for and from, the enjoyment of
the masses. George Brandes writes quite scathingly that it ‘must not be
forgotten that everywhere the great majority is lethargic, ignorant and of poor
judgement’ (Brandes, 1899), ostensibly then it follows, that in his view, that
which is produced for this ‘mob’ will be of little value, standardised in
unworthiness. The global flow of capital, goods and ideas has the potential to
threaten national and cultural traditions and cause a homogenization of culture
as writing and spreading literature across the world, becomes about making
money. It is at this point that world literature suffers and homogenous nature
becomes a problem. Further, the effect of Globalisation inevitably results in
the dangerous attraction for many a writer, to write for ‘a general and
unspecified public’ (Brandes, 1899), in pursuit of world recognition. This,
Brandes laments, for he rightly claims, ‘that which is written directly for the
world will hardly do as a work of art’, and further that ‘world renown seems to
me a particularly poor measuring stick for the giving of due justice’ (Brandes,
1899). The author that seems local to all the world is not synonymous which an
author who deserves world celebration; ‘that a writer has at one point pleased
everybody is by no means enough that we may include him in world literature
forever’. (Brandes, 1899).

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What
is to be disputed about Brandes’ view point, is that for a writer to make a
powerful effect, he must ‘work in the land in which he was born and write for
his countrymen’ (Brandes, 1899), that a writer’s indisputable nationality is crucial
to their work. The development of Globalization has also developed the
potential for hybrid culture which may pave the way for a new rather than
standardised form of written art. There is great potential in the modern world
for travel across countries, for emigration and immigration, even for dual
nationality; resulting in fluidity of national identity. Scholar Burton Pike
worries that as a consequence a ‘creeping homogenization is developing in prose
fiction’ and ‘a kind of generic international content and style’ (Pike, 2013)
takes the place of national literature, and become a world literature. Pikes
concerns parallel those of George Brandes but in our globalised world where
national identity is often blurred, the authors cultural background is no longer,
necessarily, relevant. It is also not entirely fair to claim that it then ‘no
longer carries the scent of the earth’ (Brandes 1899). The literature should
reflect the authors own emotions, and if that author now belongs to a
multiplicity of nationalities, then he should write as such. In fact, to write
as if he still belongs solely to the one nation may well affect the work to the
point that it no longer carries the scent of truth. Vladimir Nabokov, after
having emigrated to America and been celebrated as one of the greatest authors
of his time, attempting to translate his world-renowned Lolita into his native Russian language, failed entirely; facing
criticism for a work that made little sense. Nabokov no longer felt comfortable
in his native tongue as one’s sense of self changes in relation to their space,
and it is important that literacy keep up with the changing pace of the world,
reflecting merges or changes in national identity. This cultural hybridity has
the exciting potential to result not in a homogenisation of world literature,
but in a new form of literature all together. T.S Eliot questions the very
nature of homogenization in his essay ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’ by
asking why it is ‘we endeavour to find something that can be isolated in order
to be enjoyed’ (Eliot, 1982:36). If we are moving towards ‘universality of
sameness’1
what, indeed, is wrong with that? This is not to say individuality is not
important but Eliot’s critique of ‘our tendency to insist, when we praise a
poet, upon those aspects of his work in which he least resembles anyone else’
points out that often we are praising individuality over quality. Eliot’s
judgements should lead us to rethink what it is we are looking for when we read
a text. Eliot proposes that ‘the poet has not a “personality” to express but a
particular medium’, a mind of ‘passions which are its material’ (Eliot, 1982).
This idea of writing as a ‘fusion of elements’ should support the notion that
globalisation allows exposition, which, in turn, develops exciting art, new or
not, to enter into a multi-dimensional world, not one of a globalised sameness.
Authors who ‘transcend their homelands and emerge into a planetary system where
their work can acquire a universal relevance’ (N+1, 2013) should therefore be
celebrated; for they are not promoting homogenisation they are just promoting
art, be it ‘art for arts sake’2
or with political or sociological purpose, the artist should not always be
concerned with the issue of homogenisation.

A
form of homogenisation that has largely evolved from Globalisation, and may be
considered rather negatively, is the translated text in the globalised world.
As is its nature, globalisation often emerges as the standardisation of the
most popular and most common. Casanova (2007) exposes the emerging regime of
inequality in the world of literature ‘where minor language and literatures are
subject to the invisible but implacable violence of their dominant
counterparts’ those lesser known languages bear the weight of lesser
distribution in a Darwinian set up whereby European countries have been
acknowledged around the world as the centres of literary authority. Casanova
traces the battle for domination back to the 16th century, when European
vernaculars asserted their independence and gained literary power by absorbing
Greek and Latin models. Brandes’ sympathies for authors who ‘for the world they
do not exist’ (Brandes, 1899) are still relevant. Despite the enterprise of
translation being ‘much larger than ever before’ it also means a lesser author
who can write in a more widely known language can easily be more renowned than
a stronger author who speaks a language known by fewer. Or, even in the case of
works translated the ‘author lacks their weapon, their language’, texts are at
risk of being homogenised in translation in an attempt to simplify the process
and are therefore at a disadvantage in the competition for literary legitimacy.

For
literary powers to maintain dominance they promote foreign (both in language
and style) work, but of a nature that it is not so ‘formally innovative or
culturally alien as to challenge their power or perspective'(Marx, 2005). There
is in this sense a certain propaganda aspect to the process of Globalisation
that leads to homogenisation. Post 1989 there was a strong rise in
Globalization as a consequence of Cold War, the divided world led to globalised
economies – one with communist countries and one with democratic. Despite the
eventual disintegration of this bipolar world, Globalisation has largely
progressed due to the intent to create a homogenised literature. – Leaders of
the opposing ideologies wanted people within their own ‘world’ to think the
same way forging links with each other, physically and ideologically to create
one united world of thought against another – democracy and capitalism, versus
communism. This thought process has been adopted to an extent, to create a more
peaceful world where those who think similarly co-exist together. Goethe, of
course before all this claimed the intention of ‘weltliterature’ to be the idea
‘not that the nations shall think alike, but that they shall learn how to
understand each other’, (Goethe, 1827) this should still be the intention;
however, the level of difficulty has proved quite high. It is true that World
Literature is often controlled by authorities who largely dominate the marketplace
of ideas ‘but if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought’ (Orwell,
1946). These words from George Orwell resonate while identifying, alongside the
growth of travel across borders and internationality, the fact that Globalisation
has also resulted in a renewed assertion of state borders by some areas at the
demand of those who strive for an aggressive affirmation of national cultures.
This can often strengthen global inequality and racial hierarchy, perpetuating
in-equality and violence. The role of World Literature within this is a matter
of discourse. The effect of language, both written and spoken, has the ability
to persuade waves of mankind into a certain viewpoint or action. In recent
history we can identify homogenisation of prejudiced literature to spark hatred
and violence. Between April and June 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were
killed in the space of 100 days. (BBC News, 2011) Most of the dead were Tutsis
– and most of those who perpetrated the violence were Hutus. Ethnic tension
between the two groups had existed years before the catastrophic event, but the
genocide on the day has often been cited as a consequence of radio and written homogenised
propaganda circulating within the Hutu community, gradually changing the way
people thought of their neighbours, their friends even their families.
Similarly, in the present day, existence of walled states—dividing Texas from
Mexico, Israel from Palestine, South Africa from Zimbabwe—consecrate the broken
boundaries they would seem to contest and signify the ungovernability of a
range of forces unleashed by globalization. Walls respond to the wish for
horizons even as horizons are vanquished (Brown, 2014). Not only does prejudice
lead to homogenisation of similar ideas in literature, and vice versa but it
also shows that it is very unlikely that we will ever live in a ‘universality
of sameness’ (Beck, 2015) because humankind does not think alike, and will
likely always be plagued by prejudice.

 

In
a more positive light, David Damrosch draws attention to what literature can
gain as it is read across borders and nations, not homogenised in reproduction,
but gaining from the move. Further, that even a homogenised text becomes
different wherever it is read as ‘a culture’s norms and needs profoundly shape
the selection of works that enter into it as world literature, influencing the
way they are translated, marketed, and read’ (Damrosch, 2003: 200).  Globalisation also has brought variety to
local groups dominated by local literature. It is through force of
Globalisation that has led us to the modern age we live in, a free-thinking
world where, it is true, progress may differ vastly in the developed and
underdeveloped world, but we can trace through history the progress that has
been made. Literature has always existed largely as a form of communication
amongst the elite, the educated, the scholarly. Even in today’s society, we
cite our works from ‘scholarly articles’ we are made to form our opinions,
based on those who are predecessor have deemed valid. This literary elitism can
results in standardisation amongst scholarly work, particularly at a university
level as often we are told to personify the opinions of others, rather than our
own. The hope for Globalisation and World literature to achieve should be to
effect the education system to not only include ‘English classics’ but to vary
in classics from elsewhere, and then the inclusion of modern. To find value not
only in a Virginia Woolf novel not only because we are told it is a work of
fine literary value, but to find value in the novel we enjoy. Homogenisation as
a process may be traced back to biblical times, the predominant way of thinking
developed from religion, these ideas which were then globalised. Now the
Bible’s claim to truth is vaguely tyrannical, excluding all other claims and
insisting that it is the only real world (Auerbach, 1953) and over time, new
school of thought have been developed and produced discourse, allowing for the
existence of new and opposing philosophies. What has changed is the rate of
communication and spread of knowledge, and this is something to be celebrated
as it is through this exponential spread of ideas that we are making global
progression toward a greater knowledge. Brandes’ primary concern seems to be
‘of those works which speak to the masses, only those which are not
particularly serious or good will spread outward across borders’ (Brandes,
1899).  Contrary to this statement are
his own assertations that when we consider what world literature includes, it
is vital that we consider world literature that it is relevant to all mankind.
We must think of the work scientific researchers and explorers, Brandes gives
named examples of Pasteur, Darwin and Bunsen, stating that their work is
‘unconditionally world literature in that it addresses and enriches all of
humanity’ (Brandes, 1899). Brandes regards scientific works as definitive and
addresses its need to reach a universal level and therefore its need to be
homogenised.

Globalisation
holds the potential to break down the barriers, the limitations of cultural
classics and an elitist literary system. The existence of Comparative
Literature is a product of this, we are able to examine literary texts from
across borders are hold them to the same esteem. This is not to say the
classics of a nation should not remain to be held valuable, but it is unlikely
that cultural and national individuality within literary texts will disappear.
The Homeric text is still being examined centuries after its production and
will continue to do so. Globalisation merely incorporates a genuine universal
literature with the aspiration to be read by all, or offer to be read by all,
but not, necessarily to entertain all.

1
As Ulrich Beck discusses

2
The phrase l’art pour l’art
became current in France in the first half of the 19th cent – art is self
sufficient