How Should We Read Literature from a Certain Area from the Viewpoints of Other Language-Speaking Areas?


Author: Akiyoshi Suzuki, Nagasaki University, Japan
Email: [email protected]
Published: November 2014

Citation: Suzuki, A. (2014). How Should We Read Literature from a Certain Area from the Viewpoints of Other Language-Speaking Areas? IAFOR Journal of Literature & Librarianship, 3(1).


The concept of “world literature” can be viewed as insisting on returning to reading a text without the mechanical use of literary theory. This means, as Zhang Longxi notes, referring to Kermode, “tak[ing] whatever theoretical help you fancy, but follow[ing] your nose” (Zhang 2010, 7; Kermode 2004, 85) 2 and reading literature through multidimensional interpretations. If I can regard the reading of a text put in the framework of literary theory as a kind of paternalistic and dogmatic “check-up,” then I will label the alternative, reading literature in a kind of follow-your-nose way, Rogerian empathy—the understanding of the “voice” of a text from its internal framework of references. However, this raises a simple question: How should we read literature from a certain area from the viewpoints of other language-speaking areas? “The deconstruction,” Paul de Man says, “constituted the text in the first place” (1979, 17), but if so, meanings of sentences are defined on the basis of a reader’s socio-cultural background—such as traditions, ways of thinking, and laws—and emotion. A person’s reading of literature in another language might always result in misreading in a sense. However, we cannot simply call it misreading, because “I feel, therefore I am.” From a neurological perspective, intelligence and emotion are united. Intelligence and feeling link to the faculty of reason, and emotion has a critical role in enhancing one’s faculties. As brain scientist Antonio R. Damasio mentions, “Emotion, feeling and biological regulation all play a role in human reasoning” (2005, 8). In our global society, we should empathize with and understand voices, or interpretations, in the world, and discuss them together on a world scale in order to cross-culturally understand each other and promote peace.


world literature, comparative literature, literary theory, cross-cultural