Change and Exchange: Twenty-First Century Anglophone World Literature
We are so often introduced to literature as a part of a national culture or belonging to a particular mode or tradition of writing. But, then, in the twenty-first century, more and more writing operates beyond established paradigms and circulates ever more freely across all kinds of boundaries. What of the literature that is located in the world, not just in terms of a spatio-geographical entity but more broadly as a community in which ‘world-making’ is issued from multiple sources and sites? What if literature were actually one form that ‘the world’ takes, a place where today’s immense, willing and unwilling flow of people and ideas around the globe can be grasped and understood?
Scholars have long been interested in twentieth-century literature that tells the national, transnational, colonial, and postcolonial (hi)stories of collaboration, appropriation, and tension between peoples around the globe. But in recent decades it has become possible to see literature as transcending these historical categories, leading to recalibrated formulations of ‘world literature,’ offering us accounts of contemporary life that turn on change and exchange. From this perspective, world literature can be said to traffic in ideas and, by extension, to affect how readers perceive the world.
In David Damrosch’s (2003) view, world literature is at once locally inflected and translocally mobile as it circulates beyond its culture of origin and makes a home in readers across the world. World literature, he insists, is a mode of circulation and a mode of reading. It manoeuvres among a broad readership interested in the exchanges of ideas and, consequently, in changes of established ways of thinking and being in the world. In his radical rethinking of world literature, such literature possesses what Pheng Cheah (2016) calls a normative efficacy, with normative understood as that which ‘ought to be.’ World literature is characterised by its world-making capacity, with world defined as an unmappable temporal and spiritual intercourse, transaction, and exchange aimed at bringing out universal humanity. Such ‘a being-with’ of people springs from, but is not limited to, the mappable object of the globe. World literature, Cheah claims, not only describes but also intervenes in processes of ‘worlding’ since it opens up possible worlds and allows for the hopeful imaging of future worldwide changes.
Jeffrey Nealon and Brian McHale note a current shift in literature that turns on ‘an intensification and mutation of features already present’ within well-established literary genres and narrative modes and point to new directions that are ‘…mutated, passed beyond a certain tipping point to become something recognizably different in its contours and workings’ (Nealon, 2015: 177). Supplementing this observation, Mary K. Holland comments on a literary strategy that ‘not only returns us to presence and the real, after decades of literature's obsession with the void, but also to remind us of the powerful ways in which acts of reading and writing impact the real world’ (Holland, 2013: 7). Literary criticism should therefore acknowledge a growing need for new approaches in theory and analysis. And so, we are interested both in literature that documents lives of movement and dislocation and in literature as a form of representation that operates past paradigms in exciting and often unpredictable ways towards the global, or the ‘worldly.’ We focus both on recent writing in English that originates in the world (for instance, in texts that describe lives of migration, dislocation, and cross-cultural experience) and on texts that reach their global audience through spheres of circulation, translation, and influence that exceed their original sites of composition. This forum explores literary and critical re-orientations related to this and addresses questions concerning the current status of Anglophone world literatures and the direction(s) they seem to be taking in the twenty-first century.
Martyn Bone is associate professor of American literature at the University of Copenhagen. He is the author of Where the New World Is: Literature about the U.S. South at Global Scales (University of Georgia Press, 2018) and The Postsouthern Sense of Place in Contemporary Fiction (Louisiana State University Press, 2005). He is also the editor of Perspectives on Barry Hannah (University Press of Mississippi, 2006) and the coeditor of the University Press of Florida mini-series Creating Citizenship in the Nineteenth-Century South (2013); The American South in the Atlantic World (2013), and Creating and Consuming the American South (2015). His articles have appeared or are forthcoming in American Literature, Journal of American Studies, CR: New Centennial Review, African American Review, and other journals.
Eva Rask Knudsen is associate professor of postcolonial and global anglophone literatures at the University of Copenhagen. She is the author of In Search of the Afropolitan (Rowman & Littlefield 2016, with Ulla Rahbek) and The Circle and the Spiral – A Study of Australian Aboriginal and New Zealand Maori Literature (Rodopi, 2004). She is co-editor of and contributer to Bodies and Voices: The Force-Field of Representation and Discourse in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies (Rodopi, 2008). Her articles have appeared in The European Journal of English Studies, Australian Literary Studies, Comparative Literature and Culture (CLC), Cross/Cultures and other journals, and she has contributed to essay collections published by Routledge, Rodopi, and Queensland University Press.
Ulla Rahbek is associate professor of postcolonial and global anglophone literatures at the University of Copenhagen. She is the author of British Multicultural Literature and Superdiversity (Palgrave 2019), In search of the Afropolitan (Rowman & Littlefield 2016, with Eva Rask Knudsen) and Global Voices (Gyldendal 2016). She is also co-author of Modern Britain: Developments in Contemporary British Society (Samfundslitteratur 2012) and Texts in Time: British Cultural Narratives from Defoe to Blair (Fagbokforlaget 2005) and co-editor of Colonial and Postcolonial Experiences (Novus 2011) and A Short Introduction to History of the United Kingdom (Fagbokforlaget 2006). Her articles have appeared in ARIEL, Journal of Commonwealth Literature, The European Journal of English Studies, Literature and Theology, Collabah, Australian Humanities Review, and other journals.
Inge Birgitte Siegumfeldt is associate professor of contemporary anglophone literature. She is head of The Paul Auster Research Library, the co-author of A Life in Words. Paul Auster in Conversation with I.B. Siegumfeldt (Seven Stories Press, 2017) and co-editor of New Avenues in Paul Auster’s Writing (forthcoming Presses de universitaires de Rennes, 2019). She is also the co-editor of Nordisk judaistik/Scandinavian Jewish Studies Vol. 28/1 (June, 2017). Her articles and book chapters on postmodern theory, deconstructive thought and Jewish hermeneutics have appeared in Routledge publications, SubStance, Deus Loci, Orbis Litterarum, Jewish Quarterly Review and other journals.
Kiron Ward is Visiting Associate Professor of English. He researches encyclopaedism in modern and contemporary fiction, with a particular focus on the works of James Joyce, Leslie Marmon Silko, Roberto Bolaño, and Karen Tei Yamashita. He recently co-edited Don DeLillo: Contemporary Critical Perspectives (with Katherine Da Cunha Lewin, 2018) and a special issue of the James Joyce Quarterly, entitled ‘Encyclopedia Joyce’ (with James Blackwell Phelan, 2019), and is currently writing a monograph on totality in contemporary fiction, and an edited collection that will mark the 100th anniversary of the publication of Joyce’s Ulysses (with E. Paige Miller).
Currently, the following projects have been initiated as part of this research forum:
- Refugee Talk (headed by Eva Rask Knudsen and Ulla Rahbek)
- Home and Away: The Circulation of Paul Auster’s Verbal and Visual Worlds (headed by Inge Birgitte Siegumfeldt)
- Environmental Racism and the Regional-Global Scales of Black Southern Life in Jesmyn Ward’s Writing (headed by Martyn Bone)
- Ulysses at 100 (headed by Kiron Ward)
The forum is also home to the Paul Auster Research Library.
We welcome potential PhD projects, potential research affiliations, and visits from scholars whose work engages in any way with the worldliness of twenty and twenty-first century anglophone literature.
The forum is also home to the Paul Auster Research Library.
See list of selected publications (pdf) by the researchers involved in the research forum.
1 March - Dr. Fraser-Rahim, Islam and Pluralism: The African-American Muslim Experience.
Masterclass arr. by Martyn Bone
26 March – American Literary and Cultural Studies
Symposium arr. by Martyn Bone
15 May - Prof. Zachary Learner, Anglophone World Literature: “Saul Bellow, American Fiction, and the Great Books Tradition
Masterclass arr. by Inge Birgitte Siegumfeldt
8 October - Self-Reflexive Literature and the Twenty-First Century Writing of Paul Auster
Masterclass w. guest speakers, A.Varvogli and F. Hugonnier
29 November – Remembering the Postcolonial: Past Paradigms; Present Perceptions
Guest lecture by John McLeod, Leeds University
13 December - W.E.B Du Bois's Neurological Modernity: I.Q., Afropessimism, Genre
Guest lecture by Dr. Michael Collins, King’s College, London