chapter  12
On the Tropes of Literary Ecology: The Plot of Globalization
Pages 18

In “World Literature Without a Hyphen,” I have argued for the usefulness to cross-cultural literary study of thinking in terms of ecological relationships between literatures and their environments, understood as including economic, political, social, religious, and technological factors, among others, as well as relations with other languages and literatures. But how do these large-scale comparisons play out on the level of the text? Are the traces of literary ecologies visible on the scale of close reading? It is my belief that they are-that literatures operating in certain cultural environments are prone to employ specific formal features adapted to the specific contexts in which they find themselves. After a brief survey of the ecological contexts that I identify across the span of world literary history, and the literary features I identify with them, I move to a more detailed discussion of one such trope in particular, which I identify as emergent in twenty-first century literature and film: the use by contemporary authors of the traditional literary device of entrelacement, or “multi-strand narration,” as a means of representing the intricate and problematic ties that bind us together in the age of globalized capitalism. I call this trope the “plot of globalization.”