Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe's Theory Of World Literature

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In less then a decade the world will mark two hundred years since in 1827 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe has first introduced the concept of World Literature (Weltliteratur in German) in one of his conversations with Johann Peter Eckermann. However, Goethe has never coined the term precisely. He was supporting an idea of exchange of knowledge between men, what in his time was known as a “Republic of Letters”, rather than of an exchange of certain productions or literary works. Knowing that, one can speak about World Literature as a form of transnational communication of knowledge. However, later scholars, like Hermann Hettner or Adolf Stern, were taking World Literature as a discipline of describing the “discrete literary production from a chronological point of view” (D’Haen 16). While in Germany the studies of World Literature were taken as “general” (D’Haen 17) studies, as almost cataloguing the existing corpus of literary texts, in France they developed into what was called Comparative Literature. According to Albert Guerrard’s Preface to World Literature in 1940, the World Literature was that part of the entire amount of written texts (which he named Universal Literature), which is “enjoyed in common by mankind” (D’Haen 19) , while Comparative Literature for him was an “approach, which focuses on influences between national literatures” (D’Haen 19). However, despite such grandiose formulations, the studies of World Literature — with exception of religious texts — were very
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