OSL PhD Workshop: Literature and the Social

Literature and the Social

Online PhD workshop | 4 December 2020 | Organizer: Jesse van Amelsvoort (Groningen) | Keynote: Prof. David Alworth (Harvard) | 1-2 EC

Open to: PhD candidates and RMA students; OSL members have first access.

Registration will open Fall 2020.

Towards the end of the twentieth century, the study of literature became decidedly more sociological. Under the influence of thinkers such as Pierre Bourdieu and disciplines such as gender and postcolonial studies, scholars started paying attention to the context of literary production. This move has sometimes seen literature reduced to a status subordinated to other disciplines – merely the offshoot of other, ‘real’ processes in society and culture. In this seminar, we counter this view and aim to rethink how literature relates to the social, in particular regarding the ways in which literature can make our social world legible and visible in new ways.
Literature, David Alworth argues in his book Site Reading, is in fact a rich source of sociological knowledge. Departing from Bruno Latour’s sociology, especially his actor-network theory (ANT), Alworth demonstrates the value of literature and literary studies for understanding the social. By attending to the various sites that function as the backdrop of the action in literary works, we can see how these sites either restrict characters’ actions, or enable them. If we want to know more about the human experience of collectivity, we might as well turn to literary representations of that experience. The workshop aims not only to facilitate interaction and dialogue among the participants, but also explicitly encourages them to actively search for new ways of reading and criticism and include them in their own research projects.