Hermes Seminar – New Worlds, New Literatures, New Critiques

New Worlds, New Literatures, New Critiques

Hermes Consortium Seminar at the University of Wisconsin – Madison
June 9-14, 2013

Throughout the course of human history, interactions between civilizations, empires, nations, and communities have initiated cultural changes and exchanges. Literature—in the form of oral, written, visual, or performance “texts”—has been at the heart of human interactions. In the moments of “globalization” of the world through violent conquests, imperialism, mercantilism, and colonialism, all the way to modern day interaction between nation-states through multinational commerce, the “worlding” of the world has initiated and facilitated the “worlding” of literature.

The expansion of European colonialism in Asia, Africa, and the Americas between the 16th and late 19th centuries further impacted the production, circulation, and distribution of literature. To be sure, violent moments of imperialism, mercantilism, colonialism, and even the current economic globalization have often led to the suppression of many literary and linguistic traditions. This unevenness and imbalance has created productive tensions as well, which have revealed the inherent hybridity of genres and forms. The transformation of the European Bildungsroman in the Americas, Asia, and Africa, modernist poetry in India, Brechtian Theater in Iran, Afro-Brazilian Jazz, and anime Ramayana exemplify such exchanges, whereby local aesthetic traditions were either renewed, or impacted and contributed to the “newness” of hitherto unfamiliar literary and artistic genres and forms. Such changes also impacted literary and artistic criticism, from the transnational reception of the heroic epic in Northern and Western Europe in the middle ages, to the transformation in (North-) American and European Literary theory in the second half of the twentieth century brought about, in part, by the arrival of migrant intellectuals from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. These changes must be looked at as more than a proliferation of schools and movements. The impact of European modernist thought on developments in comparative literature, intersections between the Frankfurt School’s Critical Theory and Postcolonial Studies, and conversely the use of “Rasa”- theory to conceptualize and evaluate “Performance,” interventions of race and ethnic theory in evaluating modern music, photography, and cinema are just a few examples of developments of new critical vocabularies.

The second half of the 20th century witnessed an unprecedented escalation of migration and amplification of technological, financial, and commercial interdependence between nations. These processes inaugurated many new modes of inquiry in the humanities and the social sciences. On the one hand, the rise of new nation-states following processes of decolonization led to post-colonial examinations of the concept of the nation, on the other, the development of regional entities such as the European Union triggered transnational perspectives on national cultural heritages.

The 2013 Hermes Consortium Conference at the University of Wisconsin – Madison aims to focus on aspects of literary intersection, literary conglomeration, and literary innovations that are initiated and facilitated by historical phenomena of trans-national, trans-regional and/or global impact. At the center of the conference is a working idea of a “world literary/artistic criticism,” understood not merely as a finished collection of literary/artistic vocabulary from around the world, but an invitation to trace worldwide literary and artistic interactions and critical vocabularies that are developed to understand literary and artistic production. What new aesthetic and artistic forms come into being as a result of newer interactions? What happens with literary and artistic criticism—in the public sphere arena of magazines, newspapers, e-zines, but also in the academy? How do local political, historical, and market realities shape, and are in turn shaped by transformations in literature and art? These are just a few questions that will be discussed in the conference. Paper topics might include but are not limited to transnational, comparative evaluations of:

  • Forms of the Heroic Epic
  • Globalized “Bildungsroman”
  • Legacies of Realism: from Social to Magical Realist
  • Localizing the Fourth Wall: Indigenizing the Alienation Effect
  • Transformations in Short Stories: American Short Story, the German Kurzgeschichte, the “Nai Kahani” in Hindi Literature
  • Multilingual Rap: European Migration and Transformation of an American Genre
  • Hybridization of Poetical Forms across Borders
  • Translation and Transformation across Languages, Media, and Culture

Applications by e-mail containing name, institutional address, e-mail address, 200 word abstract of doctoral project, and 300 word abstract of proposed paper must be sent no later than February 22, 2013 to:  Fees for the 2013 seminar in Madison will be $350 USD.  A small number of scholarships will be available to select candidates.