Jay, Paul. “Beyond Discipline? Globalization and the Future of English.” PMLA 116 1 (2001): 32-47. Print.

  • J. begins by noting that the nation-state is in increasingly less and less control of its own cultural change . . . culture isn’t bounded by national boundaries and has become something of a free-floating flow.  This has a profound impact on the institutions of any nation state – education most prominently.
  • J. goes through the history of 20th century cultural developments to demonstrate how Marxism & feminism, working in concert with the identity movements of the 1960s and deconstruction, transformed the idea of “culture” and untethered it from explicitly nationalist leanings typical of the 18th and early 19th century American cultural climate.  Combined with the explosion of cultural production in English outside of the traditionally “native” countries and you get a different view of cultural globalization in the English language – one that exists outside national identities and in the realm of a shared language (often also the language of capital).
  • Because of these developments, Jay argues that English departments should reorient their curricula so that the processes of globalization – not national literatures – are the foundations for courses.  This involves recognizing that globalization is a long-running process(es)[1. Think Mignolo here.]; however, Jay cautions against adopting globalization as the focus of literature study simply as another form of colonizing the Other (34).
  • Jay recaps Wallerstein’s theory of globalization before moving on to recap Robertson (long-view – 15th century), Giddens (modernism and nation-state), and Harvey’s (postmodern reduction of time to cover space through technological development – remember, he’s a geographer) takes on what constitutes globalization.  Jay recommends foregrounding Harvey and Giddens’ interpretation of globalization in literary studies while still situating the processes in the longer views of Robertson.  Next Jay discusses globalization in cultural terms by relying on the work of Appadurai, Readings, and Clifford.
  • Jay agrees with the position that globalization is a two way process: Western capitalism doesn’t simply impose an identity on the developing world through commodity consumption; rather, while imposing that identity in products the products are remade by those outside the West in ways that serve their own purposes and contexts.  Again, here we are returned to a conflict about meta and micro narratives of cultural change.  Globalization isn’t a completely homogenizing force; rather, it is a series of uneven processes that proliferate through porous sites of difference and exchange.  Because Jay adopts this view of cultural diffusion and exchange (instead of progressive Western capitalist homogenization), he also claims that literary studies is much the same – it is not tied to processes of commodification for Western markets; rather, Jay claims that the discipline of English can shift its focus on the center without simply replaying colonialism.  Here’s how:
  • Avoid the trap of asserting the autonomy of the local over the global (and vice versa) by emphasizing the multidirectionality of cultural flows (Appadurai) and the appropriative practices of transformation of globalized cultural forms in order to escape nationalist/nation-state literary paradigms that are Eurocentric, imperialist, and neo-colonialist (42).  Additionally, Jay recommends a degree of self-reflexivity in recognizing the power relations and implicit assumptions of a nationalist literary paradigm:  “The more we emphasize the historically constructed, politically and culturally interested nature of literary studies, the easier it will be to avoid putting British or United States English at its center and to prevent it from being disconnected from the history of transnational cultural politics” (43).
  • Jay recommends moving away from nation-based curricular structures (especially the survey course) toward processes of globalization that stress the inherently transnational relations of writing in English across history (and in the process recognize the violence and oppression engendered and resisted through said processes).  This revision of curriculum also means a greater emphasis is placed on globalization theory and its various practices (44).  Jay warns that if English doesn’t move in this direction it is likely that it will render itself irrelevant in the future.

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