Nouvelle parution
Didier Coste, A Cosmopolitan Approach to Literature. Agains Origins and Destinations

Didier Coste, A Cosmopolitan Approach to Literature. Agains Origins and Destinations

Publié le par Esther Demoulin

Compte rendu publié dans Acta fabula (mai 2023, vol. 24, n° 5) : 

Raviver le cosmopolitisme : de l’intérêt actuel d’une littérature « vraiment générale » (Chloé Chaudet)

This cross-disciplinary approach to literary reading of any provenance based on an “experimental cosmopolitan” epistemology de- and recontextualizes the texts from the points of view of multiple cultures and historical moments, enriching interpretation and aesthetic experience beyond the backgrounds of the present reader and the origin of a particular literary discourse. Trusting the authority of an author or an “original” text and ignoring the fundamental plurilingualism of the literary experience obstructs the wealth of cosmopolitan reading in a globalized and fragmented world. A thorough critique of both local and overarching theories in clear dissent from the binaries of “decolonial theory” and the overextension of “nomadic theory” supports a precise research and teaching methodology at variance with past trends of Comparative and World Literature. Considering literature as the aestheticized use of language, which is universal, the many analyses provided can be extrapolated to other genres, eras, and cultural areas.

Table of contents


Introduction: Cosmopolitan Reading, How and Why?


Theory in Motion

1 "Power Failure in Paris": Against Local Theory

2 Locations and Dis-Locations of Theory: Toward a Theory without a Fixed Address


Universals and World Literature

3 Universals in Theory and Practice

4 The World Literature Controversy

5 Worlding and Localizing Fiction


Cosmopolitanism Revisited

6 Cross-Cultural Negotiation, Comparison, Comprehension

7 Cultural Cosmopolitanism as Experiment

8 The Literary Construction of Cosmopolitan Consciousness


Elusive Identities, Deceptive Origins and Destinations

9 Unselfing Literary Studies: Against "Idemtity"

10 The Ironies of Authenticity

11 Ambiguous Mobilities: How Cosmopolitan is Nomadism?

12 A Labyrinth of Margins: Mimetic Desire and Native Impersonation


The Pragmatics of Outgoing and Incoming

13 Exos as Eros, and Vice Versa

14 Heteroglossia as Experiment and Cosmopolitan Performance

Excipit: The Personal Touch




Didier Coste is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Université Bordeaux Montaigne. After studying Law, he received PhDs in French (Interarts) Studies from the University of Sydney and in Hispanic Studies from the University of Provence, and his Habilitation in Comparative Literature from the University of Lille. He has taught in Belgium, Australia, France, the United States, Canada, and Tunisia. He was twice a fellow of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He has published some 150 articles in English, French, and Spanish in the fields of Literary Aesthetics, Poetics, Cultural and Translation Theory, and Narratology. His book Narrative as Communication(1989) was considered as a landmark contribution to Narrative Theory. He is now working on Conversations with Hanuman: Studies in Modern Indian Literature and Culture. Coste is also a trilingual novelist and poet; his latest books of poetry in English were published in Sydney (2015) and Calcutta (2019). As a literary translator, he was the recipient of a major French award in 1977.