Paul Jay – Global Matters: The Transnational Turn in Literary Studies

Global mattersPaul Jay. Global Matters: The Transnational Turn in Literary Studies. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2010. 231pp., Print.
Cornell Paperbacks: ISBN 978-0-8014-7607-5

Paul Jay’s book aims to historicize the evolution of literary and cultural studies, questioning the view that globalization may be a strictly contemporary or postmodern phenomenon in which economic evolutions would trump cultural issues. Jay contemplates a shift in focus in the field of English studies from a national to a transnational framework. In the romantic period, the nation could be regarded as the home  for single literatures and languages. The arnoldian model sawthe « best » literature as trnascending local and historical circumstances to embody universal truths and a relevance to the definition of a universal condition. The new engagement is with differences: transnational spaces, race, class, gender, hybrid identities, border regions. , so that « American studies » have become transnational. But Jay warns against « facile approaches to the study of cultural globalization that tend to simply celebrate diversity and hybridity without thinking critically enough about its effects. »

In its second part the book examines a handful of works of fiction that transcend the national boundaries to which they belong, thus embodying the « transnationalizing of English literature. »

Paul Jay’s book is reviewed in AmeriQuests 8.1 (2011) and elsewhere (see Paul Jay’s page on the book for his selection of reviews).