NeMLA 2021 (Philadelphia): World Literature and Unhomeliness

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
William Arighi (Springfield College)

World literature in its contemporary formation is often traced back to the catastrophe of World War II and the large number of European academics whose displacement was produced in its wake. Though the Euro-centric post-War vision of world literature has been gradually overcome with the introduction of East Asian, South Asian, and Middle Eastern (and, more rarely, Latin American and African) texts to syllabi and graduate programs, much of the pedagogy of world literature is still organized by national traditions and historical epochs defined by empires and states. Like the return of the repressed in Freud's famous formulation of the Unheimlich (lit. "unhomely"), the uneven global violences that have produced the current state of homelessness reappear as the structured ignoring of certain cultures and peoples within world literature studies, the not-quite-unfamiliar shapes of hyphenated identities and the untranslatable. Without denying the importance of the texts frequently used in the study of world literature, the globe now faces levels of homelessness, migration, and statelessness--both willed (like the political defectors of repressive regimes), unwilled (like climate refugees) and without will (like pandemic viruses)--whose familiarity from the post-War period nonetheless demands new texts and methods to address world literature to new audiences. In keeping with the theme of this year NeMLA conference, "Tradition and Innovation: Changing Worlds Through the Humanities," this panel will seek to address some of the methodological, pedagogical, and canonical issues facing world literature in a new time of unhomeliness. Potential paper topics may include:


Refugee literature and world literature

Climate crisis and world literature

Citizenship, statelessness and world literature

World literature in a time of pandemic

Literary representations of genocide

Translation and the monolingual student

International students in the world literature classroom

Teaching historical and social contexts for non-Euro-American texts in world literature classes

Teaching world literature without language programs


Please submit abstracts (250 words) through NeMLA portal: For questions, please email: warighi [at]