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Terrestrial Humanism and the Weight of World Literature: Reading Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black

Davies, D. ORCID: 0000-0002-3584-5789 (2021). Terrestrial Humanism and the Weight of World Literature: Reading Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black. The Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, 8(1), pp. 1-23. doi: 10.1017/pli.2020.23


Through an extended reading of Canadian author Esi Edugyan’s novel, Washington Black (2018), this article aims to revise and reinsert both the practice of close reading and a radically revised humanism back into recent world literature debates. I begin by demonstrating the importance of metaphors of weight to several theories of world literature, before tracking how, with the same metaphors, Edugyan challenges Enlightenment models of earth, worlds, and humanism. The article draws on the work of several theorists, including Emily Apter, Katherine McKittrick, Steven Blevins, Edward Said, and Frantz Fanon, to argue that “terrestrial humanism” might provide a framework from which to develop a grounded, politicized, earthly practice of close reading world literary texts. The aim is not to arrive at a prescriptive or “heavy” methodology, but to push instead for a reading practice that remains open to the contrapuntal geographies, affective materialisms, and radically humanist politics of literary texts themselves.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article has been published in a revised form in Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, This version is published under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND. No commercial re-distribution or re-use allowed. Derivative works cannot be distributed. © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Media, Culture & Creative Industries > English, Publishing & Creative Writing
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