In "Boundaries of Culture," the Presidential Address at the 2017 Modern Language Association Convention, Kwame Anthony Appiah gave an impressively far-ranging account of the state of literary studies, starting with Johann Gottfried von Herder's notion of the Volksgeist and the origins of literary study in the triad of the literary, the national, and the humane, turning to such current theories as those of trauma, queer, gender, and disability studies, postcoloniality, ecocriticism, digital humanities, and multilingualism, and furthermore discussing the different forms of reading propagated today, from distant to deep, and from reparative to paranoid. Calling such lists a "litany," Appiah pleaded not for a truce in "our intramural border skirmishes," since both philosophy and literary criticism would falter without disputation, but for a recognition of continuities in the humanities, of "shifting boundaries" as a topos. Appiah showed particular attentiveness to language difference and to issues of translation, quoting from excerpts in classical and modern Greek, Asante, French, Spanish, Urdu, and, most extensively and pervasively, German (of which he offers his own English renditions).


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pp. 227-248
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