ACLA 2023 - Mediterranean Comparisons: Literature Beyond Borders

deadline for submissions: 
September 28, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
C. Ceyhun Arslan / Koc Universitesi; Karim Mattar / University of Colorado at Boulder
contact email: 

The Mediterranean has often been considered a transitional space—a rite of passage, an interval between borders, a route to conquest.  But what of the Mediterranean as a context and a framework in itself?  How might notions of ‘man,’ ‘nation,’ ‘empire,’ ‘center,’ and ‘periphery’ be reformulated when looked at from the perspective of the sea? What does comparative literature look like when the Mediterranean is viewed not only as a sea in which cultures exist and literatures are produced but also as a context or a framework in which they can be reassessed?

This seminar seeks to center the Mediterranean as a site of imaginative generation beyond the borders that have traditionally been imposed upon it.  It is oriented around the lives, cultures, and histories that the sea has both made possible and foreclosed.  Bound up with desires for exploration and escape, technologies of seafaring and surveillance, and the rise and fall of civilizations, lives ranging from Odysseus to Cervantes to Alan Kurdi have ebbed and flowed in rhythm with the sea. This seminar proposes the Mediterranean as their condition of possibility. The Mediterranean has served as a reservoir of concepts and images for writers, artists, and thinkers as they have responded to the appropriation of the sea for imperialist, colonial, and fascist agendas throughout centuries. How do these concepts and images help them attain new insights about themselves and the world?

Like literature, the Mediterranean has a tendency to dissolve borders.  What does the literature produced in and around the Mediterranean—which is to say, world literature—look like beyond the borders of nation, empire, and language? How do artists and thinkers help their readers re-envision specific urban centers, port cities, islands, and local sites when they situate them in a Mediterranean context? What are the new axes of comparison that emerge through such a recontextualization? How does the Mediterranean create new bridges among national literature, area studies, and comparative literature?

We invite paper proposals that engage with the aforementioned questions. Possible topics include:

·      Memory and politics in the Mediterranean
·      Mediterranean as a site of disciplinary reconfigurations
·      ‘Centers’ and ‘peripheries’ of the Mediterranean and their lack thereof
·      Port cities and islands
·      The longue durée and other temporal scales
·      Theories of Mediterranean literature
·      Trans-Mediterranean connections
·      Mediterranean chronotopes
·      The Black Mediterranean

For any queries about the seminar, please contact the organizers C. Ceyhun Arslan ( and Karim Mattar (