[UPDATE] Scenes of Reading: Is Australian Literature a World Literature?

full name / name of organization: 
Australian Literature at the University of Sydney, Australia

Friday 25-Saturday 26 May 2012

As a part of its annual series of international symposia and book publications on key themes in Australian literary studies, in May 2012, Australian Literature at the University of Sydney will host a symposium on the theme, 'Scenes of Reading: Is Australian Literature a World Literature?'

Keynote speakers :
Professor Wai Chee Dimock (Yale University), author of Through Other Continents: American Literature Across Deep Time (2006) and co-editor of Shades of the Planet: American Literature as World Literature (2007).

Professor Zhao Baisheng (Peking University), author of Theory of Auto/Biography, Director of Peking University Institute of World Literature and President, World Literature Association.

Recent accounts define world literature as (i) a discipline concerned with the 'effective life' of a text 'whenever, and wherever, it is actively present within a literary system beyond that of its original culture', or (ii) as a field of practice, 'a mode of circulation and of reading', 'a traffic in ideas between peoples' (Damrosch). These definitions offer methodological challenges for Australian literature which, until recently, has been situated primarily as a 'national' literature. Transnational literary studies are now throwing into relief the provincialising force of such local and/or nationally-bounded knowledges. Indeed the relationships between local and transnational literary space are demanding new reading practices, and creating new 'scenes of reading'. These have been variously described using metaphors like: 'mutual elliptical refraction' (Damrosch, Giles), or looking far afield through the wrong end of the telescope (Anderson).

Questions that arise may include but are not confined to the following: What scope or potential might transnational reading practices offer Australian literature? Can reading Australian literature as a world literature enable us to trace threads of connection beyond the local and the national into transnational space and 'deep time' (Dimock)? Is Australian literature a minority or provincial literature embedded uncertainly in international literary space (Casanova)? What was/is the impact of cosmopolitanism on Australian readers and writers, both before and after the formation of the nation as an imagined community? Do threads of citation and allusion extending beyond the space of the nation hold out the possibility of a global civil society, via 'the playing field called "literary culture" brought into being … by the act of reading' (Dimock)? Or are they all too often snagged by specialist knowledge and localized epistemologies? How might the above questions be mediated or conditioned by Australia's settler-colonial context?

Abstracts for papers are welcome on issues such as the following:

  • national literatures and world literature
  • disciplinary genealogies of national literatures, comparative literature and world literature
  • transnational reading practices
  • national and transnational literary careers, networks, inheritances and/or genealogies
  • national literatures, international space and deep time
  • the provincializing force of local epistemologies/literary acts
  • the internationalizing force of local and/or provincial epistemologies/literary acts
  • literary crossings along local, regional, national, and transnational coordinates
  • Australian literature in the translation zone
  • Australian literature and international modernism
  • literary temporality and national/transnational belonging
  • literary investments in local/global politics of place
  • histories of the book, publishing and print culture in local, national or transnational perspectives

Due Date for Abstracts: 30 September 2011
Email abstracts to: georgina.loveridge@sydney.edu.au

Professor Robert Dixon, FAHA
Professor of Australian Literature
English Department
University of Sydney
Sydney 2006
Email: robert.dixon@sydney.edu.au

Dr Brigid Rooney
Australian Literature
English Department
University of Sydney
Sydney 2006
Email: brigid.rooney@sydney.edu.au