In the two decades or so between the revival of the idea of world literature and its current state, somewhere between conceptual euphoria and institutional stasis, the world to which the category refers remains a site of contention and an open signifier. The world is the site of world literature’s utopian promise. It brings up the ideas of a democratic spatial imagination and an experiential cosmopolitanism that have been at the core of comparatism, at least since the postcolonial turn challenged the self-evidence of cultural Eurocentrism. As Edward W. Said put it in a foundational essay, the world is that which opposes cultural imaginations irradiating from hierarchical cultural systems: ‘criticism is worldly and in the world so long as it opposes monocentrism, a concept I understand as working in conjunction with ethnocentrism, which licenses a culture to cloak itself in the particular authority of certain values over others’ (Said 1983, 53). And yet, even if this declaration of principle was aimed at the foundation of what Said called ‘secular criticism’, its spirit remains untenable, ungraspable. Said was aiming at the development of a transcendental signifier – worldliness – that meant to capture, in its untranslatability, two ideas of the world in constant tension with each other. The first one related to extension, the sense of a planetary culture that was rendered visible in the epistemic decentring brought about by the coincidence of Third-World decolonisation and post-structuralist deconstruction. The second one had to do with the everyday experience of the human, with the mundane sense of the common materiality of life. Said theorised this ideal, however, during a moment in which the theoretical revolutions that made his theorisation possible – postcolonialism, poststructuralism – were beginning to show their limits, and in the early days of a neoliberal world that would subsume the postcolonial into the economic order of globalisation and territorialise significant parts of the poststructural revolution into the realm of semiocapitalism.