“Cosmopolitan and vernacular dynamics” in the Swedish press

In an article published in Dagens Nyheter last week, Stefan Helgesson presents the World Literatures research programme to a Swedish audience by reflecting on the dual tendency to understand literature as a national or as a universal phenomenon. After presenting the debate in literary studies surrounding the notion of “world literature”, he situates the aims of our own research within this wider context.

“A working hypothesis for the Swedish research programme “World Literatures”, is that literary texts and communities take shape through two complementary, albeit variable movements: one leads outwards towards a world larger than one’s own, the other inwards towards the local, the vernacular”

Literature has often been understood as closely tied to language and nation. Alternatively, it has also been viewed as “universal”, the site of relatively equal human exchanges where origins count for little in comparison to the literary qualities of the work. Criticising both these habits of thought for underestimating the entangled and socially embedded nature of literary production, Helgesson argues for an understanding of world literature as the literature of the long history of globalisation. 

Stefan Helgesson is principal investigator for the research programme Cosmopolitan and Vernacular Dynamics in World Literatures. You can read more about his individual projects within the programme here.

written by Alice Duhan
15 December, 2017