East-West Fiction as World Literature: The Hayy Problem Reconfigured

East-West Fiction as World Literature: The Hayy Problem Reconfigured

Srinivas Aravamudan

Language: English

Pages: 37

ISBN: 2:00249520

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

From: Eighteenth-Century Studies
Volume 47, Number 2, Winter 2014
pp. 195-23


This article focuses on the reception history of translations of Ibn Tufayl’s Hayy ibn Yaqzan and how natural theodicy, empiricist experimentalism, and philosophical fiction influenced eighteenth-century England. Discussing the status of Ibn Tufayl’s ideas in relation to Edward Pococke, John Locke, Robert Boyle, and Daniel Defoe allows scholars to go beyond the East-West dichotomy and instead create an opening from eighteenth-century studies onto recent debates around world literature. Using Hayy as a prism, we can understand the opportunities as well as the drawbacks of a world literature paradigm, as theorized by Wolfgang von Goethe, Erich Auerbach, and more recent scholars.


Eighteenth-Century Studies is committed to publishing the best of current writing on all aspects of eighteenth-century culture. The journal publishes different modes of analysis and disciplinary discourses that explore how recent historiographical, critical, and theoretical ideas have engaged scholars concerned with the eighteenth century. Eighteenth-Century Studies is the official publication of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS).

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and is to be found in the intervals, mediations, passages, and crossings between national borders. The world is a form of relating or being-with.”11 “World” is the historical effect of countless textual survivals over many linguistic temporalities, rather than a spatialized entelechy of grandiose world-historical agents, whether we name 198 Eighteenth-Century Studies Vol. 47, No. 2 them “the global novel” (Moretti) or “small literature” (Casanova). Worlding, in this literary sense, is a

Neoplatonist and pagan theories of sunlight as emanationism by al-Farabi, Ghazali, Avicenna, and Ibn Tufayl, see Goodman, Ibn Tufayl’s Hayy Ibn Yaqzan, 44. Neoplatonism synthesized Platonic and Pythagorean influences against the domination of Aristotelianism. Another parallel has been suggested between Hayy and Plato’s Theaetetus. There was also another edition of the Dutch translation, corrected by Adriaan Reland and with engravings, De natuurlijke wijsgeer, published in 1701. 28. With its

origines culturelles de la Révolution française (Paris: Le Seuil, 1990). 71. For the idea of comparaître, a pun on how comparison is really about objects that co-appear or compear where neither example is originary nor derivative, see Jean-Luc Nancy, The Inoperable Community (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1991), 27–30. 72. Maximillian E. Novak, Economics and the Fiction of Daniel Defoe (Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1962), 66. 73. See Srinivas Aravamudan, “East Indies

not necessarily out of binary oppositions, but multiplicities of differences, knowledges, epistemologies, and Srinivas Aravamudan is Professor of English, Romance Studies, and the Literature Program at Duke University. His most recent book, Enlightenment Orientalism: Resisting the Rise of the Novel (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2012), has received the Kenshur Prize from the Center for Eighteenth-Century Studies at Indiana University and the Perkins Prize from the International Society for the Study

on an island would not discover fire or the idea of God except by rational speculation into “the constitution and causes of things” as exemplified by Hayy in the fable.44 Locke’s idea of the tabula rasa could have been reinforced by Ibn Tufayl’s heuristic fiction concerning autodidacticism, a category so dear to modernity from Bacon to Rousseau, all the way up to twentieth-century behaviorism.45 208 Eighteenth-Century Studies Vol. 47, No. 2 Hayy also influenced Robert Boyle, a major figure in

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