World LiteraturesCosmopolitan and Vernacular Dynamics

Based at Stockholm University, this research programme will run from 2016 until 2021 with the generous support of The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences. Its task is to explore, across numerous languages, how aesthetic values, genres, forms, literary communities and individual authorships are shaped

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The programme has four sub-groups with the following headings:

Theorising the Vernacular

Moving between different scales of analysis as well as distant and close reading methodologies, this group addresses an understudied dimension of world literature: the theorisation and conceptualisation of the vernacular. The term “vernacular” is here understood both in its narrower linguistic sense and as an aspect of locality. If literary forms register and are shaped by various transnational flows, the presupposition here is that vernacular literary cultures demonstrate how cosmopolitan formations are resisted, accommodated and transformed. Focusing on periods from the early modern onwards, the researchers explore how the vernacular can be used as an operative concept to understand local and global dynamics in such diverse locations as China, North America, France, the Caribbean, North and West Africa, and the Finno-Baltic region. With theoretical support in, for example, Françoise Lionnet’s and Shu-Mei Shih’s notion of minor transnationalism and Édouard Glissant’s archipelagic thinking, the case studies undertaken by this group question the assumption that the vernacular is by default turned inwards (the land, the people, a language) and incommensurable with cosmopolitan dimensions of world literature.

Participants: Christian Claesson, Christina Kullberg, Katarina Leppänen, Irmy Schweiger, David Watson

Locations and Orientations in World Literature

The terms locations and orientations appear, at first, to have very different qualities: a location operates as a fixed, spatial dimension whereas an orientation implies movement across both spatial and more abstract dimensions, such as ideology or identity. Sub-group 2 posits, however, that the two terms might be productively read as co-constitutive. That is to say, the ways by which literature locates itself reveals various orientations that may reinforce or, indeed, destabilise that very location. Alternatively, literary orientations, towards say, a home, a diaspora, the world, might reveal surprising aspects about how literature registers its locatedness. The wager here is that in attending to the centrifugal and centripetal movements back and forth between location and orientation one might mobilise insights into the ways in which the cosmopolitan-vernacular exchange operates in world literature. Geographical foci to be developed in the group include new urban literary forms in eastern and southern Africa, "migrant" writing in Sweden, African women's writing and American muslim novels.

Participants: Bo G. Ekelund, Ashleigh Harris, Louise Nilsson, Adnan Mahmutovic, Paula Uimonen, Helena Wulff

World-making: Genres, Crafts and Languages

By adopting and adapting the term "world-making" (Valdés, Kadir, Hayot, Cheah, Neumann), sub-group 3 investigates how the world acquires density and meaning through literary practice. Rather than different scales of reading, the focus here is on different modes of writing, publication and reception. A premise here is that the world can never be seen or experienced in its entirety. Instead, documentary modernism, translingual writing, travelogues, experiments in constructing readerships through "little magazines" in (post)colonial contexts all provide instances of how the world is actively and partially imagined - not just in terms of extension, but equally through temporal entanglement and formal experimentation. An innovative feature of these projects is that they thematise the specificity of languages and media (including scripts) as critical elements of world-making along cosmopolitan or vernacular lines. The projects address, inter alia, Russian cosmopolitans, western travel writers, the modernist literary imaginary of Istanbul, Indian popular culture and literary journals in twentieth-century South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Participants: Annika Mörte Alling, Helena Bodin, Irina Rasmussen, Stefan Helgesson, Anna Ljunggren, Anette Nyqvist, Lena Rydholm, Per Ståhlberg, Mattias Viktori

Translation, Circulation and the Semi-Periphery

By researching translation flows, the cosmopolitanising and vernacularising dynamics of translation, translation as consecration, and gender as a mediating category in the circulation of literature, sub-group 4 aims at studying cosmopolitan and vernacular intersections at both micro and macro levels of analysis. What unites the projects is the notion of the “semi-periphery”, which is often mentioned in world-systemic studies but hasn’t been investigated in its own right. Hence, the sub-projects look at the agency of individual mediators and translators as well as systemic translation patterns in dialogue with the sociology of translation, theorisations of literary markets, gender studies and branches of postcolonial studies. Several projects include Sweden and Scandinavia in their purview, thus contributing to the regional grounding of the research programme. Other foci include East Africa and the Portuguese-speaking world.

Participants: Chatarina Edfeldt, Erik Falk, Andreas Hedberg, Yvonne Lindvist, Cecilia Schwartz, Paul Tenngart