chapter  9
Concretely Global: Concrete Poetry against Translation
Pages 14

The need to think literature in a global context has produced, for the most part, theories based on spatial patterns, concerned with the movements of literary texts beyond their original contexts. For example, both David Damrosch’s (2003) notion of world literature, for which only texts that enter into transcultural and/or translingual circulation become worldly or worlded, and Wai Chee Dimock’s (2001) reflection on a planetary literature marked by individual, even anarchic patterns of reading beyond national boundaries perceive the world or the globe as an expanse that texts have to traverse.1 Even though literature effectively creates networks of intercultural connections, through the lens of world literature approaches they tend to produce cultural cartographies predetermined by and modeled upon circulations of goods, information, and money in the global marketplace. As Pheng Cheah explains in “World against Globe,” a spatial understanding of world literature uses “global capitalist market exchange as model” (2014, 303). This implicit reliance on literature’s exchange value-since economic considerations and questions of cultural prestige and literary governance determine what enters into circulation and what is worthy of being exchanged-is closely tied to an assumption of translatability.2 On the one hand, only texts that are “translated,” that is, carried across cultural and linguistic boundaries, even enter the purview of world literary approaches. On the other hand, texts participate in global circulation mostly by way of translation, that is, by being transposed into another language or, especially when their original language is a global currency (such as English), by producing global readers or writers who can shift into another (globally more dominant) language. Even as the unequally distributed exchange value of a literary text determines if it will be translated or if its original language makes translation unnecessary, since “translation” already happens in the act of reading or writing, rather than constituting an additional linguistic transfer, literary capital can flow best if translation is turned into a merely instrumental process.