Literatures of Development

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American Comparative Literature Association -- Harvard University -- March 17 - 20, 2016
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Organizers: Sunny Xiang ( and Christopher Fan (

Abstracts (250 words) accepted September 1st through 23rd. Please submit here:

How might the concept of "development" shed light on the relationship between literature and various global and international formations? In being a staple term among both novelistic criticism and policy discourses, the problematic of "development" raises a number of questions about usage, scale, overlap, reference, and effects. What exactly is being developed and at what scales within narrative, political, and market discourses of development? How does literature engage the "developmental" projects of states and NGOs, and how does it enfigure the intimacies of personal relations? Such questions are motivated in part by Joseph Slaughter's meditations on the logics of convergence between the Bildungsroman novel and developmental endeavors pursued under the rubric of human rights law. Through this seminar, we hope to further and update this conversation about the relation between literature and international development. How might the overlaps and ambiguities among developmental discourses -- including literary genres, disciplinary fields, and pop cultural forms -- help illuminate how subjects, states, and institutions interact at home and abroad? What are the limits and advantages of situating debates about globalization, human rights, and cosmopolitanism (for example) in relation to "international development"? How are institutionalized disciplines such as postcolonial literature and ethnic literature affected by discourses of development?

This seminar invites papers exploring various interpretations of "development" in the contexts of international and domestic relations. We aim to put into conversation an eclectic array of texts, contexts, and historical periods. Topics might include: the "globalizing" of university curriculum and institutions via doctrines of development; the use of fiction in courses on international development (ie, Heart of Darkness, The Poisonwood Bible, Reading Lolita in Tehran); "voluntourism" and the proliferation of the "Peace Corps novel"; "soft power" viz. cultural production and subject formation; global multiculturalisms; Comintern aesthetics; South-South relations; migrant aesthetics; the ethics of reading; the novel of international development as le roman expérimental; critical realism.


Abstracts (250 words) accepted September 1st through 23rd. Please submit here: