Abstract

Starting with the fact that Chinese literature was absent from world literature in the twentieth century, this article reveals a contradiction in Johann Wolfgang Goethe's prediction. The line drawn between Chinese literature and world literature manifests a hierarchical structure of the existing world literature. Through a brief retrospective of Sino-Western cultural exchanges in history, we are led to the phenomenon of literary variation that usually appears when works circulate out of their original backgrounds, indicating the compatibility of heterogeneous literatures. From the perspective of Variation Theory, a new pattern of world literature's formation that differs from the core-periphery model or literary compromises may get inspired. Resorting to translative variation and thematic variation, works acquire worldness without sacrificing their national characteristics. In this case, world literature will be hopefully formed in comprehensive communications among different literatures.

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