The 2nd Congress of the World Literature Association “Center and Periphery: A New Approach to World Literature” October 19-21, 2017

deadline for submissions: 
September 20, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
UCL, Belgium
contact email: 

From October 19 to October 21, 2017, the University of Louvain (UCL, Belgium) will host the Second Congress of the World Literature Association, titled “Center and Periphery: A New Approach to World Literature”.


Among others, Pascale Casanova’s and Franco Moretti’s works have demonstrated how relevant the notions of “center” and “periphery” are for studying the world literary system. Far from exhausting all the issues related to this binary approach to literature, such works have rather shown a set of aspects that are yet to be explored in the definition of a world literature and which are likely to bring a reconsideration of the latter from a diachronic as well as a synchronic point of view.


By selecting the couple “center/periphery” as the topic, the congress aims to explore precisely these aspects and incorporate them into an innovative model of World Literature. In this respect, five axes of research will be encouraged.


1) A micro- and macro-systemic perspective: can a literature be both peripheral (in the world) and central (in a given cultural, linguistic or geographical area)? Does the configuration of big cultural and linguistic unities (English-speaking, Francophone or Hispanic world) reproduce the same dynamics as the world literary system? How can we interpret insular (Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, etc.) or regional (Mediterranean, Maghreb, Near and Middle East, Scandinavia, etc.) unities according to a center/periphery approach?


2) A historical perspective: is the center/periphery configuration immutable in time or does history show instances of literatures whose position significantly evolved in the literary system? What are the mechanisms explaining the literary system’s variability or immobilism during a given period? How does globalization induce an original relation between central and peripheral literatures?


3) A geographical perspective: does the center/periphery configuration copy the physical map of the world or does the literary system draw its own atlas? Which influences does geography have on the relations between literatures? Is a non-central literature necessarily peripheral? Is the periphery the reverse of the center? Can we explain literary flows through a network of centrifugal and centripetal forces?


4) A linguistic perspective: what role does language play in the centrality of a literature? Are there any correlations between the position of a literature in the world system and its relationship to translation? What is at stake when a peripheral/central literature translates its works into foreign languages and foreign works into its own language? How does a multilingual national literature position itself in the world literary system? What can be said about literatures written in a minor language?


5) A cultural perspective: beyond language, what are the other cultural features likely to influence the position of a literature in the literary world? Does the religious or political situation of a country influence the place of its literature in the system?


Obviously, these questions are not exhaustive. Many other issues can be addressed insofar as they can be related to one of the above-mentioned perspectives.


Besides plenary conferences, the congress will also include parallel sessions for which proposals, in French, English and Chinese, are welcome. You may send your abstract (max. 15 lines) to Amaury Dehoux (, and Zhao Baisheng ( before September 20, 2017.