News and Events

Upcoming Events

Research Seminar: Transnationalism in Contemporary French literature
Date: Mid August 2013
Chair: Prof. Peter Morgan
Speaker: Dr. Nina Parish (French Studies, University of Bath)

Research Workshop: Goethe's Concept of World Literature
Date: September 2013
Chair: Prof. Peter Morgan
Speaker: Prof. Peter Morgan

Research Conference: Literature and Ecopoetics
Date: Late 2013/Early 2014
Chair: Dr. Peter Minter
Speaker: Dr. Peter Minter, and 12 international colleagues

International Conference: Transnationalism and World Literature
Date: November 2013
Chairs: Prof. Paul Giles, Prof. Robert Dixon, Prof. Peter Morgan, Prof. William Christie
Keynote Speaker: Prof. Djelal Kadir

International Conference: Romantic China
Date: November 2013
Chair: Prof. William Christie

Research Workshop: Civilisational Analysis as Theoretical Underpinning for Transnational Studies
Date: December 2013
Chair: Prof. Peter Morgan
Speaker: Prof. Em. David Roberts (Monash University)

Research Workshop the World: Transnational Studies: A New Discipline
Date: March 2014
Chair: Prof. Peter Morgan
Speaker: Prof. Martine Antle

Research Workshop: Pre-Modern Transnationalism and Translation
Date: March 2014
Chair: Prof. Peter Morgan
Speaker: Prof. Peter Morgan

Research Workshop: World Literature: History and Review
Date: August 2014
Chair: Prof. Peter Morgan
Speaker: Prof. Peter Morgan

Research Workshop: Transnationalism from a Europeanist's Perspective
Date: August 2014
Chair: Prof. Peter Morgan
Speaker: Prof. Peter Morgan

Research Workshop: The Creative Investment of Multiculturalism and the Transnational
Date: September 2014
Chair: Prof. Peter Morgan
Speaker: Prof. Paolo Bartoloni

Research Workshop: Best-sellers from Iran and their circulation in English translation
Date: September 2014
Chair: Prof. Peter Morgan
Speaker: Prof. Paolo Bartoloni

Research Workshop: The Russian Poet's Visit
Date: September 2014
Chair: Prof. Peter Morgan
Speaker: Dr. Peter Kirkpatrick

Past Events

The Transnationalism and World Literature project is an opportunity for colleagues and those interested in literary studies to discuss literary texts, new trends, and theoretical innovations across the languages and cultures of the world. It is funded from by the Sydney University Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Collaborative Research Scheme. The full project title is: “Writing the World: Transnationalism, Translation and Literary Studies” and the aim is to bring people working in literary studies across all disciplines together to discuss world literature and transnationalism, understood broadly as the “movement” of narratives across cultural and national boundaries. We have been meeting this year mainly over workshops, articles-in-progress and in the planning of an edited volume entitled, “Text, Translation, Transnationalism: Literary Studies in 21st Century Australia.” A series of work-in-progress seminars is underway to workshop papers and to produce a complete manuscript by the end of the year. The project will continue throughout 2014 and 2015 and I hope that it will become the basis for an ongoing Sydney Literary Studies network across institutions as well as disciplines, and that we will host further workshops and undertakings such as collaborative research applications and endeavours.
The first major international workshop for the Transnationalism and World Literature Project took place on May 15-16, with visiting guest, Prof. Djelal Kadir addressing the group on the subject of world literature. Professor Djelal Kadir is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Comparative Literature at Pennsylvania State University and is a leader in the current revival of interest in world literary studies. As a teacher of and writer on literatures of the Americas, modernism, postmodernism, world literature, and classical and modern theory Prof. Kadir has published over 100 articles twelve books, including Columbus and the Ends of the Earth: Europe's Prophetic Rhetoric As Conquering Ideology (Univ. of California Press, 1992), The Routledge Companion to World Literature, co-editor with Theo D’Haen and David Damrosch (Routledge, 2011). Professor Kadir’s latest book is Memos from the Besieged City: Lifelines for Cultural Sustainability (Stanford University Press, 2010). Professor Kadir has served as the Editor of World Literature Today (WLT) and has edited monographs on a wide range of postcolonial and postmodernist writers. He has also published, in collaboration with UNESCO, a number of special issues on shifting literary cultures at critical junctures in their history such as contemporary Indian (American) literatures, Russian literatures after perestroika, contemporary Australian literature, literatures of India fifty years after independence, German literature after re-unification, post-apartheid South African literature, literatures of post-Soviet Central Asia.
Professor Kadir spoke on the topic of “Literature, Theory, and World: What Do the Texts Say?” In this lecture, Professor Kadir asked what the literary tradition and its textual corpus tell us about the nature of literature, theory, world, and theory of world literature? He explored this question through a number of seminal texts dating from Ancient Mesopotamia (Epic of Gilgamesh), Greek Antiquity, the Mesoamerican Book of Chilam Balam, and modern poetry with a view to identifying how literary theory and self-reflexivity in literary discourse emerge as performative dimensions that define the literary corpus. How, he asked, does the world emerge as literary language, and what are some of the key worldly protocols that transform language into poetic discourse? These are elemental questions that need to be asked with some regularity because the texts of the literary corpus and our constantly mutating modes and social criteria for critical reflection make the perennial exploration of these questions imperative.
In this paper Professor Kadir re-read the idea of world literature from its origins in terms of the seminal functions of the “as,” the representation of world as word and the word as world, identifying in the process the original “protocols” of literature which would continue to modify, change and develop over the millennia. “Theory,” he concluded, “exists in an essential and necessary, not a contingent or secondary relationship to literature. It is the ‘world’ of literature.” This highly theoretical intervention concluded on a note of political assessment, even engagement, endorsing the relinkage of theory to the world of praxis, after an era (of post-structuralist critique) in which theory had become a sclerotic and secondary accompaniment rather than an essential and dynamic component of the ongoing dialogue between intellect and world.
On the following day, Professor Kadir held a seminar and workshop in which the theoretical component was deepened through textual analysis and discussion of three works by Gerard Manley Hopkins, Wallace Stevens and Les Murray.” Three works in English from different continents were analysed with a profound understanding of the linguistic workings of the text, underwritten by Professor Kadir’s native knowledge of Turkish, Greek and English, along with his knowledge of Spanish, Ancient Greek, French and other languages.
Professor Kadir is a leader in the field and his lecture was a masterpiece of complex theoretical reasoning, bringing together a profound understanding of the nature of language with deep literary acumen. The Friday seminar, based on the lecture and extending the theoretical material to close readings of different texts, was a virtuosic exercise in analysis of language and in poetic close reading. This reading led to an interesting, profound and probing discussion of the most fundamental aspects of our program, namely the hermeneutics of world literature, the relevance, significance and operations of transnationalism in literary studies. The extended discussion among participants was extraordinarily productive, and included postgraduate students as well as staff from English and the languages departments. It was for me, the most intellectually stimulating experience of recent years at University of Sydney and provided a wonderful basis for ongoing collaboration among literary scholars from across the Faculty.



World Literature and Transnationalism Workshop
Date: 23 August 2013
Speaker: Bob Cowan, Robert Dixon, Paul Giles, Peter Morgan, Barrie Wharton

Five brief presentations were made during the course of the afternoon and discussion settled on several interrelated topics.

  • Issues of definition of keywords such as “literature,” “world literature,” “transnationalism,” etc. “World literature” was coined by Goethe in a particular European political and social environment and the concept was subsequently popularized in the post-Nazi context as a means of returning German cultural material into global as well as national circulation. Is this context of relevance to contemporary usage? (Peter Morgan)
  • How widely do we understand literature, given the differences in breadth in different cultural contexts and historical epochs? Can we speak of transnationalism before the existence the modern nation-state? Does transnationalism specifically refer to literary comparativity in the age of digital technologies, where contact and connection has been radically accelerated? (Paul Giles)
  • The issue of comparativity in history: to what extent can we talk of “transnationalism” in historical contexts? Is there any point in seeking categories for pre-modern and/or ancient modes of intercultural contact. For example in the Roman world where Greek remained a lingua franca of the educated classes and where “literary” writing was often carried out in Greek as well as Latin? (Bob Cowan)
  • Different models of “world” in world literature: various supra-national, international and/or imperial and colonial structures have operated with concepts of “world” literature, for example the communist world used a concept based on class solidarity rather than ethnicity or language. Is the contemporary post-colonial understanding of world literature and transnationalism compatible with other current models of globalization, for example Islamic global perspectives? Contemporary European societies are grappling with these issues (Barrie Wharton).
  • At what point does a literary tradition become “world literature”? What are the criteria for a national, sub-national or regional literature becoming (perceived as) “world literature”?
  • Australian literature includes a diversity of voices which differentiates it from other literary traditions. Does this render Australian literature a world literature? (Robert Dixon).
  • Translation and the role of the translator in rendering material comprehensible across two or more languages.

The wide-ranging discussions revealed the breadth of issues that arise in terms of the terms of reference and the different cultural and historical understandings of literature as a cultural phenomenon which crosses borders of language, identity, ethnicity, and civilizational self-understanding. Ongoing discussion of these issues in the light of contemporary transnational and world or global literature discussions.

Aesthetic Modernism and the East/West Encounter
Date: 16 August 2013
Speaker: Professor Harsha Ram (University of California, Berkeley)

What might it mean to view aesthetic modernism, political modernity, cultural nationalism as well as crosscultural cosmopolitanism from the perspective not of Paris, London or Vienna, but from the very edges of the European cultural system, in a region such as the "Russian" Caucasus? Most accounts of global modernism assume the centrality of the European metropolis, whose influence irradiates outwards, or assume a “centripetal” account of modernism, as a cultural universe of “peripheral” artists who consolidate a cosmopolitan centre. Can these accounts be modified?

Research Seminar: Archipelagic American Literary Studies
Date: 29 May 2013
Chair: Prof. Paul Giles
Speaker: Prof. Brian Russell Roberts (Brigham Young University, Ohio)

Research Seminar: 'A Dozy City': Adelaide in J.M. Coetzee's 'Slow Man' and Amy T. Matthews' 'End of the Night Girl'
Date: 23 April 2013
Chair: Prof. William Christie
Speaker: Dr. Gillian Dooley (University of Adelaide)

Discussion Group: Karatani Kojin, "Origins of Modern Japanese Literature"
Date: 15 April 2013
Chair: Dr. Rebecca Suter

Research Seminar: ‘Skin Deep’, a Self-Revealing Act: Monologue, Monodrama, and Mixedness
Date: 10 April 2013
Chair: Prof. William Christie
Speaker: Dr Deirdre Osborne (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Reading Group Meeting: Discussion of theoretical issues regarding the possibility of world literature studies, based on Gayatri Spivak, 'Death of a Discipline'
Date: 14 March 2013
Chair: Prof. Peter Morgan