This article contends that world literature is necessarily plural, and that its generative mechanism is the dialogue of globally circulating criticism with local political and aesthetic concerns. By examining Ranjan Ghosh and J. Hillis Miller's Thinking Literature across Continents, and the debates over Rabindranath Tagore's 1924 visit to China, the article seeks to illustrate how the interaction of local and global criticism selectively authorizes texts as part of a world literature. The resulting literary constellations, though claiming cosmopolitan legitimacy, are not necessarily visible as such from other localities despite a shared critical vocabulary. Those localities may be distributed geographically, as in Ghosh and Miller's encounter, or ideologically, as Tagore's varied Chinese receptions showed. However, rather than mourning the impossibility of a singular, utopian world literature, these examples suggest that embracing the fundamental fragmentariness of global literary production offers insight into both the obstacles that hinder cross-cultural exchange as well as the processes that enable it. Moreover, taking the contingency of worlds of literature as a ground for inquiry offers a mode of resistance to aggressively hegemonic constructions of a singular world literature.

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