Conceptualizing “European literature”

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V. Liska & T. Nolden ICLA CHLEL
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Conceptualizing “European literature”
We are inviting essay proposals for a volume to be published in a new series by the Coordinating Committee of the International Comparative Literature Association. Given the series’ emphasis on “problems in contemporary literary studies,” we are pursuing a wide variety of models for conceptualizing “European literature.” The volume will be edited by Professor Vivian Liska (University of Antwerp) and Professor Thomas Nolden (Wellesley College / M.I.T.).
With its multiplicity of cultural forces and historical centers, Europe has figured as a (geographically, politically, culturally, ethnically, religiously) contested space that has engendered literatures showing strong affinities and attractions to each other while developing in competition and friction amongst each other. Frederic Jameson’s notion that “Europe is interrelated by difference rather than by similarities and homogeneities” points to the challenges in defining “European literature”: The particularities of national and regional literatures are a unique feature of writing in Europe, whose literary history has been impacted by strong homogenizing forces (Christianity, Renaissance and Reformation, Eurocentrism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, colonialism, to name but a few). It is this complex dynamics of continentalization and resistance to it which any conceptualization of “European literature” has to address and which may be approached through a set of core questions:
What are the modes of “continentalization” that have attempted to shape a specific European tradition of literature through transnational endeavors of collaboration (e.g. patristic writing in the Middle Ages, Renaissance Humanism, all the way through those of European modernism)?
How can the notion of “European literature” reckon with literary modes stressing regional, ethnic or national differences, thus accentuating demarcation lines of a “European literature” by opposing it?
What mechanisms of cultural transfer and market forces of dissemination and reception have contributed to the emergence of “European” authors and texts whose reception history gained shape not only inside but also outside of the national and linguistic space of their origin?
What is the role of “minor,” nomadic, migrant, and diasporic literatures in the creation of transnational modes of European writing?
Which contours does the concept of “European literature” obtain when conceived from the perspectives of writing beyond Europe’s borders, in relationship to and as viewed by non-European literatures?
What is the relationship between a theory of “European literature” and theories of “World literature” as well as to the project of “provincializing Europe” (Chakrabarty) ?
Please send inquiries and proposals to Luc Acke at
Deadline for proposals: July 1st, 2010

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