Literary Cosmopolitanisms in Teju Cole's <i>Every Day is for the Thief</i> and <i>Open City</i>.

  • Katherine Hallemeier Oklahoma State University
Keywords: Teju Cole, cosmopolitanism, translation, publishing


This paper examines cosmopolitanism in Teju Cole’s Every Day is for the Thief (2007) and Open City (2011). The protagonists of both novels maintain cosmopolitan identities largely by embracing an international literary culture in which elite cosmopolitan fiction relays the experiences of marginalized cosmopolitan subjects, such as the migrant worker and the refugee. The novels, however, suggest the parochialism of the protagonists’ cosmopolitan sensibilities by introducing characters, namely the “yahoo boys” and Farouq, who possess, respectively, creative resilience and language skills that the protagonists lack. Cole’s novels thus foreground the limits of a literary cosmopolitanism that privileges Anglophone fiction published in New York and London, while gesturing toward alternative literary cosmopolitanisms that are notable for their linguistic and geographical diversity, if not their glamour. Although Farouq and the “yahoo boys” aspire to membership in an elite cosmopolitan culture, their lives are non-spectacular and relatively immobile. Cole’s novels, however, value a cosmopolitan literariness that neither hails from the intellectual cosmopolitan elite nor takes the dispossessed cosmopolitan migrant for its subject.

Author Biography

Katherine Hallemeier, Oklahoma State University

Katherine Hallemeier is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Oklahoma State University. Her monograph, J.M. Coetzee and the Limits of Cosmopolitanism (Palgrave, 2013), proposes that Coetzee’s recent fiction troubles assumptions about the cosmopolitan potential of feelings such as sympathy and shame. Hallemeier has published articles in Culture, Theory and Critique, scrutiny2, Victorian Literature and Culture, Antipodes, and Proteus. Her current research interests include representations of the United States in contemporary Anglophone African fiction.