Drawing on world-systems analytic perspectives and development studies, this article argues for the emergence of an experimental world epic during our era of global capitalist transition. As represented by David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, among other fictions, this epic demonstrates a radical commitment to global justice through its multi-scalar efforts to reconstitute the histories and horizons of world development, both for the subjects it represents and the global readership it addresses. For Mitchell, an ambivalent aesthetics of global cannibalism serves as a way to encode, critique, and exceed the logic of unfettered global capitalist accumulation, especially as the text self-consciously problematizes its role as a “global cannibal” of world culture and status as a commodity fiction to be consumed in the global literary marketplace. While the aesthetics of cannibalism may be distinctive to Mitchell, this article proposes that the experimental world epic might generally be characterized by its radical commitment to interrogating pivotal moments in world development and global transformation. Such an epic mobilizes world cultural knowledge and global literacies to highlight the deprivations associated with uneven development, enact global cognitive justice, and involve readers as active participants in articulating more ethical horizons for global transformation.


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pp. 93-126
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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