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All that is solid falls from the sky: Modernity and the volume of world literature

Davies, D. ORCID: 0000-0002-3584-5789 (2022). All that is solid falls from the sky: Modernity and the volume of world literature. Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, 9(1), pp. 1-25. doi: 10.1017/pli.2021.33


This article pits two conceptions of modernity—that of the Marxist humanist Marshall Berman and the ANT (Actor-Network Theory) sociologist Bruno Latour—against each other, exploring the implications of each for postcolonial and world literary criticism. The article begins by explaining “modernity” in the terms of both theorists, focusing on the “split” between subject and object, text and world. It then identifies a wider Latourian turn in postcolonial and world literary studies that has emerged in response to the prescriptively structural approaches of groups such as the WReC. In response, the article offers in turn a Latourian reading and then a structural critique of the Colombian novelist Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s fifth novel, The Sound of Things Falling (2011, trans. 2013), probing their possibilities and limitations. In conclusion, it suggests Berman’s more expansive definition of modernist practice as one way in which postcolonial and world literary criticism might more effectively mediate between structural critique and close reading.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press. This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: Marshall Berman, Bruno Latour, Juan Gabriel Vásquez, The Sound of Things Falling, modernity, world literature, Colombia, narcotics
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Media, Culture & Creative Industries > English, Publishing & Creative Writing
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