In "What Is a World?" Pheng Cheah, a leading theorist of cosmopolitanism, offers the first critical consideration of world literature s cosmopolitan vocation. Addressing the failure of recent theories of world literature to inquire about the meaning of "world," Cheah articulates a normative theory of literature s world-making power by creatively synthesizing four philosophical accounts of the world as a temporal process: idealism, Marxist materialism, phenomenology, and deconstruction. Literature opens worlds, he provocatively suggests, because it is a force of receptivity. Cheah compellingly argues for postcolonial literature s exemplarity as world literature through readings of narrative fiction by Michelle Cliff, Amitav Ghosh, Nuruddin Farah, Ninotchka Rosca, and Timothy Mo that show how these texts open up new possibilities for remaking the world by negotiating with the inhuman force that gives time and deploying alternative temporalities to resist capitalist globalization."
"Powerful and provocative, "What is a World?" makes a significant, timely, and radical intervention."--Simon Gikandi
"Unafraid of controversy, Pheng Cheah prompts his readers to think and rethink their own critical, philosophical, and literary commitments. A remarkable book."--Peter Fenves, Joan and Sarepta Harrison Professor of Literature, Northwestern University
"Wide-ranging and complexly argued, "What is a World?" gives us a theory of world literature inspired by Heidegger, Arendt, and Derrida, locating the variety and volatility of the literary field in the finiteness of humans and the destabilizing infrastructure of time."--Wai Chee Dimock, Yale University"
"Cheah strategically broadens the notion of world literature beyond its most common reference points, which too often constrain literatures and the worlds they offer to their spatial geographies and global circulations."--David W. Hart"Postcolonial Text" (11/01/2016)
"Setting out to provide a systematic and analytical account of the notion of the world--and worlding--Pheng Cheah rethinks world literature not as the inevitable outcome of globalization, or as a reaction to the world system, but as part of the capitalist conceptual reconfiguration of the world. Powerful and provocative, What is a World? makes a significant, timely, and radical intervention." --Simon Gikandi, Robert Schirmer Professor of English, Princeton University
"Wide-ranging and complexly argued, What is a World? gives us a theory of world literature inspired by Heidegger, Arendt, and Derrida, locating the variety and volatility of the literary field in the finiteness of humans and the destabilizing infrastructure of time." --Wai Chee Dimock, Yale University
"Pheng Cheah makes a compelling argument for literature's worldly force, its ways of impacting the ethico-political problems of the world. This is exactly what the humanities need now."--Robert JC Young, Julius Silver Professor of English and Comparative Literature, New York University
"[T]hrow[s] an intriguing new light on why and how 'world literature' succeeds in generating plurality and disruption rather than falling back into a flattening familiarity."
--Caroline Levine"Public Books" (11/01/2016)
"Pheng Cheah has contribued an eloquent volume that stands out in the crowd and belongs on the bookshelf of anyone interested in the field."--Thomas O. Beebee"Comparative Literature Studies" (04/10/2017)
"As with Cheah's earlier work, it is a magisterial study, written in his characteristically scrupulous and teacherly prose. There is much to learn from What Is a World? at the levels of its intervention into the field of world literature, its case for postcolonial literature as an exemplary modality of world literature, and Cheah's own interpretive style as a reader and critic."--Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan"Qui Parle" (09/01/2016)
"Beautifully written and eloquently constructed, What Is a World? will transform the landscape of world literature studies in the coming years by posing new questions about how the world is and should be conceived."--Cesar Dominguez"Recherche Litteraire" (06/01/2017)
"Pheng Cheah's What Is a World? On Postcolonial Literature as World Literature makes a powerful intervention in current debates on world literature, arguing for the literary text to be seen as an ethico-political force in the world rather than just a commodity whose global trajectory is best understood in terms of existing networks of influence and exchange."--Ira Raja and Roanna Gonsalves"New Literatures" (05/01/2017)
"What is a World? challenges scholars of world literature and postcolonial literature to reconsider and possibly to expand the definition of their fields. It is a thoughtful, theoretical work that further challenges all of us to reconsider the role literature plays in the world(s) around us and to assess our inclusion of literature beyond the Western tradition. Undoubtedly, this book will play an important role in the ongoing dialogue over what world literature really is."--Gregory R. Jackson"Studies in 20th & 21st Century Literature" (06/15/2017)