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:

Transnational Literary Histories and Aesthetics

Taking as its premise the need to reconfigure literary histories beyond and outside of national frameworks, sub-group 1 examines critically the transnational circulation and appropriation of values, narratives and literary forms in diverse locations such as China, North America, France, the Caribbean, North and West Africa, Latin America and the Finno-Baltic region. Focusing on how cosmopolitan and vernacular formations, as well as their dynamic interactions, have shaped literary histories, this group’s central aim is to attend to literary histories visible at scales larger but also smaller than that of the nation-state, thereby interrogating the naturalised connection between the history of the nation-state and the writing of literary history. 

Moving between different scales of analysis as well as distant and close reading methodologies, the group aims to make the vernacular and the aesthetic central to its engagement with transnational literary histories. It takes as some of its main premises that literary forms register and are shaped by various transnational flows, and, furthermore, that vernacular literary cultures give evidence as to how cosmopolitan formations are resisted, accommodated and transformed. Fundamentally, the work of the group shows that investigating questions of form and the vernacular is part and parcel of writing a transnational literary history that takes neither the nation nor the cosmopolitan as its unchallenged starting point.  

Participants: Christian Claesson, Christina Kullberg, Katarina Leppänen, Annika Mörte-Alling, Lena Rydholm, 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, Adnan Mahmutovic, Paula Uimonen, Helena Wulff

World-making, Language and Print Culture

By adopting and adapting the term "world-making" (Valdés, Kadir, Hayot, Cheah), 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 sedimentation and entanglement. 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: Helena Bodin, Irina Rasmussen Goloubeva, Stefan Helgesson, Anna Ljunggren, Anette Nyqvist, Per Ståhlberg, Mattias Viktorin

Translation and Circulation

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. Hence, it looks at individual translation agency as well as systemic translation patterns. Theoretically, the projects engage 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, Louise Nilsson, Cecilia Schwartz, Paul Tenngart