Socialist Side of World Literature

deadline for submissions: 
September 23, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
American Comparative Literature Association
contact email: 

This proposal invites scholars to address the connection between Socialist Realism(s) and world literatures within and beyond the Soviet Union and the Cold War. As I. Anisimov stated in 1959 that, in the period following the October Revolution, the leading talents of world literature came to the side of the Socialist Revolution, since Socialist literatures associated with the new reality were rapidly developing not only in the Socialist world, but also in the capitalist world, where the best part of literature has joined battle to change reality. However, in the past decades the Socialist side of World Literature has not gotten the proper attention in World Literature studies. Therefore, this proposal aims to shed light on the Socialist side of World Literature by concentrating on the various forms, interrelations, and intertextualities of Socialist Realism.


The term “Socialist Realism” is “a loathsome literary salad” (Assya Humesky). First, even within the Soviet Bloc, the concept may have sounded uniform on paper and in speeches, but in reality examples of Socialist Realism significantly differed from country to country in terms of form, era, and overall construction (Evgeny Dobrenko and Natalia Jonsson-Skradol). For example, in the GDR, 1952 should be regarded as the beginning of the history of modern socialist German literature (Witold F.Tulasiewicz). Second, under the tension of national independence and the Cold War, anything new or daring would be automatically called Progressive in South-East Asia (Carlo Coppola), and any Progressive would be labeled as “socialist realism” or “communist”. Third, the important political decisions and significant literary output do not always run parallel (Tulasiewicz). Also though the doctrine of socialist realism was imposed by the party, it was generated from the literary practice of writers themselves (Geoffrey Hosking), and writers always crossed cultural and national borders. Fourth, in post-Soviet age, the Socialist side of World Literature did not simply vanish as Nina Kolesnikoff and Walter Smyrniw may have wished.   


Possible topics for the panel include investigations into the international forms of Socialist Realism, the forms of Socialist Realism across the various regions of the globe, the relationship of Socialist Realism to translation policies both in Socialist countries and in the first and third world, the continuing role of Socialist Realism in literature made after the fall of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, new approaches to Socialist Realism, Socialist Realism as World Literature. Because the aim of this seminar is to discuss the forms of Socialist literature across the globe, we particularly welcome panelists working not only on European and East Asian literature, but also those working on Africa, Oceania, and Central and South America.  


For questions, please contact the seminar organizers: Yanli HE( and Daniel Pratt (