Warwick Research Collective, Combined and Uneven Development: Towards a New Theory of World-Literature (Liverpool University Press, 2015)
The ambition of this book is to resituate the problem of ‘world literature,’ considered as a revived category of theoretical enquiry, by pursuing the literary-cultural implications of the theory of combined and uneven development. This theory has a long pedigree in the social sciences, where it continues to stimulate debate. But its implications for cultural analysis have received less attention, even though the theory might be said to draw attention to a central – perhaps the central – arc or trajectory of modern(ist) production in literature and the other arts worldwide. It is in the conjuncture of combined and uneven development, on the one hand, and the recently interrogated and expanded categories of ‘world literature’ and ‘modernism,’ on the other, that this book looks for its specific contours. In the two theoretical chapters that frame the book, the authors argue for a single, but radically uneven world-system; a singular modernity, combined and uneven; and a literature that variously registers this combined unevenness in both its form and content to reveal itself as, properly speaking, world-literature. In the four substantive chapters that then follow, the authors explore a selection of modern-era fictions in which the potential of their method of comparativism seems to be most dramatically highlighted.
“This book marks a new path. From its opening to its concluding lines, it is analytically precise, uncannily well-read, forthright without being blunt, and as comprehensive as any study of world literature is ever likely to be. The book promises a ‘new comparatism’ and it very much delivers: eloquently, intelligently, and with a distinctive command.”
Timothy Brennan, University of Minnesota
“Hinging on the powerful explanatory value of the concept of ‘combined and uneven development,’ this well-conceived and carefully researched collective effort makes a strong case for its own, highly developed ‘world-systems’ approach to the ‘world’ in ‘world literature.’”
Neil Larsen, University of California, Davis
Publications by members of WReC
Stephen Shapiro and Philip Barnard, Pentecostal Modernism: Lovecraft, Los Angeles, and World-Systems Culture (Bloomsbury, 2017)
Bringing together new accounts of the pulp horror writings of H.P. Lovecraft and the rise of the popular early 20th-century religious movements of American Pentecostalism and Social Gospel, Pentecostal Modernism challenges traditional histories of modernism as a secular avant-garde movement based in capital cities such as London or Paris. Disrupting accounts that separate religion from progressive social movements and mass culture, Stephen Shapiro and Philip Barnard construct a new Modernism belonging to a history of regional cities, new urban areas powered by the hopes and frustrations of recently urbanized populations seeking a better life. In this way, Pentecostal Modernism shows how this process of urbanization generates new cultural practices including the invention of religious traditions and mass-cultural forms.
Pablo Mukherjee, Natural Disasters and Victorian Empire (Palgrave, 2013)
Neil Lazarus, The Postcolonial Unconscious (Cambridge UP, 2011)
Neil Lazarus's latest book draws upon the concerns and debates of WREC to illustrate the need for a new approach to literary studies that lays the foundation for world literary systems analysis.
Cambridge University Press description: "The Postcolonial Unconscious is a major attempt to reconstruct the whole field of postcolonial studies. In this magisterial and, at times, polemical study, Neil Lazarus argues that the key critical concepts that form the very foundation of the field need to be re-assessed and questioned. Drawing on a vast range of literary sources, Lazarus investigates works and authors from Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and the Arab world, South, Southeast and East Asia, to reconsider them from a postcolonial perspective. Alongside this, he offers bold new readings of some of the most influential figures in the field: Fredric Jameson, Edward Said and Frantz Fanon. A tour de force of postcolonial studies, this book will set the agenda for the future, probing how the field has come to develop in the directions it has and why and how it can grow further."
Pablo Mukherjee, Postcolonial Environments (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)
Pablo Mukherjee's Postcolonial Environments explores the links between historical combined and uneven development, global environmental degradation and contemporary literary and cultural forms.
Stephen Shapiro, The Culture and Commerce of the Early American Novel (Penn State UP, 2009)
Stephen Shapiro’s The Culture and Commerce of the Early American Novel applies WREC’s world literary systems theory to create a new conception of the birth and expansion of the novel in United States.
Penn State University Press Description: "Taking his cue from Philadelphia-born novelist Charles Brockden Brown’s Annals of Europe and America, which contends that America is shaped most noticeably by the international struggle between Great Britain and France for control of the world trade market, Stephen Shapiro charts the advent, decline, and reinvigoration of the early American novel. That the American novel 'sprang so unexpectedly into published existence during the 1790s' may be a reflection of the beginning of the end of Franco-British supremacy and of the power of a middle class riding the crest of a new world economic system.
“Shapiro’s world-systems approach is a relatively new methodology for literary studies, but it brings two particularly useful features to the table. First, it refines the conceptual frameworks for analyzing cultural and social history, such as the rise in sentimentalism, in relation to a long-wave economic history of global commerce; second, it fosters a new model for a comparative American Studies across time. Rather than relying on contiguous time, a world-systems approach might compare the cultural production of one region to another at the same location within the recurring cycle in an economic reconfiguration. Shapiro offers a way of thinking about the causes for the emergence of the American novel that suggests a fresh approach to the paradigms shaping American Studies.”
Sorcha Gunne, "Mind the Gap: An Interview with Neil Lazarus", Postcolonial Text, 7(3): 2012.
Selected Journal Articles and Book Chapters:
Some Previous Publications