Based on the author’s work as general editor of the Norton Anthology of World Literature, the essay develops an approach to world literature centered on world creation. The creation of literary worlds can be understood within the framework of possible worlds theory as developed by Thomas Pavel, Lubomir Dolezel and others. Taking its point of departure from possible worlds theory, the essay then focuses on specific genres that foreground the capacity of literature to create whole worlds, including world creation myths and science fiction. Three terms are used to analyze this body of literature: reference; scale; and model. While the category of reference accounts for the status of the worlds to be found within literary works, scale and model capture the particular challenges world creation literature faces.
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