Writing in the Journal of the Society for Contemporary Thought and the Islamicate World, Assistant Professor of Arabic at Temple University Alexa Firat reviews Alexander Beecroft's 'An Ecology of World Literature: from Antiquity to the Present Day
.' Firat praises the books scale and erudition, writing that 'the journey through the six ecologies Beecroft lays out is altogether fascinating and staggering in breadth and depth.'
Alexander Beecroft’s most recent study, An Ecology of World Literature, is a profound undertaking that uses the scientific framework of ecology to “facilitate the comparative study of the interactions between literatures and their environments” (28), and hopefully to provoke discussions about particular cultural contexts with specific ecologies. Beecroft’s intellectual interests grew out of his desire to say something useful about literatures (in his case ancient Greece and early China) in conjunction with each other that did not depend on claims of contact, leading to his acclaimed study Authorship and Cultural Identity in Early Greece and China . Furthermore, the critical discourses on world literature, as productive as they are, left Beecroft searching for a theoretical model that could make sense of, for instance, the relationship between political fragmentation and cultural unity found in early Greece and China, and that furthermore did not use as a premise the value we, as modern readers, add to the texts we read (2) . In addition to these questions, Beecroft was introduced to the work of the Sanskritist Sheldon Pollock. The confluence of these elements led him to consider that the models for understanding how literature circulates were actually a series of different concrete answers, emerging in specific contexts, to the same set of problems about the interactions between literatures and their environments (3). Drawing from the work of literary and linguistic scholars and modeled on the science of ecology, Beecroft developed a scheme of six ecologies for his interaction: the epichoric (or local), panchoric (a generic term he derived from Panhellenic), cosmopolitan, vernacular, national and global, that offer a conducive framework for comparative studies not bound by time, geography or language.