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

2 April, 2016