A History of European Literature: The West and the World from Antiquity to the Present

Hardcover | March 4, 2017

byWalter Cohen

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Walter Cohen argues that the history of European literature and of each of its standard periods can be illuminated by comparative consideration of the different literary languages within Europe and of the relationship of European literature to world literature. The global history of literaturefrom the ancient to the present can be divided into five main, overlapping stages. European literature emerges from world literature before the birth of Europe - during Antiquity, whose Classical languages are the heirs to the complex heritage of the Old World. That legacy is later transmitted byLatin to the various vernaculars. The distinctiveness of this process lies in the gradual displacement of Latin by a system of intravernacular leadership dominated by the Romance languages. An additional unique feature is the global expansion of Western Europe's languages and characteristic literary forms, especially the novel, beginning in the Renaissance. This expansion ultimately issues in the reintegration of European literature into world literature, in the creation of today'sglobal literary system. It is in these interrelated trajectories that the specificity of European literature is to be found. This ongoing relationship of European literature to other parts of the world emerges most clearly at the level not of theme or mimesis but of form. One conclusion is thatliterary history possesses a certain systematicity. Another is that language and literature are not only the products of major historical change but also its agents. Such claims, finally, depend on rejecting the opposition between the general and the specific, between synthetic and localknowledge.

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Walter Cohen argues that the history of European literature and of each of its standard periods can be illuminated by comparative consideration of the different literary languages within Europe and of the relationship of European literature to world literature. The global history of literaturefrom the ancient to the present can be divi...

Walter Cohen is Professor of English at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, after having taught from 1980 to 2014 in Comparative Literature at Cornell University, where he received a distinguished teaching award and held various college and university administrative posts for two decades. He is the author of Drama of a Nation: Publi...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:608 pages, 9.21 × 6.02 × 0.01 inPublished:March 4, 2017Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198732678

ISBN - 13:9780198732679

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Table of Contents

1. IntroductionPart 1: Antiquity2. The Old World Literary System3. Empire and Its Discontents in Classical LatinPart 2: The Vernacular: From the Middle Ages to Early Modernity4. The Vernacular5. Medieval Epic6. Medieval Lyric7. Medieval Narrative after 11008. Language, Literature, and Popular Culture in the Age of the ReformationPart 3: Early Modernity9. The Representation of Empire in the Renaissance, 1: Europe and the Mediterranean10. The Representation of Empire in the Renaissance, 2: Global Perspectives11. Eurasian Literature through the Eighteenth CenturyPart 4: Modernity12. Nineteenth-century Poetry: Romanticism and After13. Nineteenth-Century Fiction14. Jewishness and Modernist Fiction15. World Literature and Contemporary Fiction16. ConclusionBibliography