“Worlding” World Literature from the Literary Periphery:
Four Taiwanese Models

By Kuei-fen Chiu

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 30, no.1  (Spring 2018), pp. 13-41

This essay combines quantitative and qualitative approaches to analyze the dynamics of cultural contestation as a literary work from the literary periphery embarks on its journey toward world literature. Chiu examines four models of “worlding” world literature from the Chinese literary periphery—namely, the global multi-cultural model (Li Ang), the globalization model (Wu Mingyi), the transnational model (Yang Mu), and the cross-medial model (Chen Li). “World literature” here is understood not as the sum total of literatures existing in the world or the ever expanding list of “canons” or “masterpieces,” but, in the words of David Damrosch, as “a mode of circulation and of reading.” Rather than relying exclusively on subjective interpretation, Chiu proposes a quantitative measurement scheme of “international recognition indicators” to picture the active new life of a literary work in spatial circulation. This analysis of world literature with a focus on the mode of circulation is complemented by an analysis of the mode of reading. Chiu uses word clouds—i.e., visual representations of word frequency in texts—for studying general readers’ online comments. She also adopts the qualitative approach in traditional humanities to interpret the “worlding” power of the four cases under analysis. A la Cheah, Chiu takes “worlding” to mean the normative force of world literature, the opening that creates meaningful relations with other beings (Cheah 2016: 6-12). Exemplifying the method with the four Taiwanese illustrative models, she shows how the combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches helps shed light on the dynamics of cultural contestation as literary works from the Chinese literary periphery seek to participate in the constitution of world literature to come.