Family Sagas in World Literatures and Audio-Visual Cultures: Reimagining Nations Across the Globe

Centre for World Literatures / Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures, University of Leeds

28-29th June 2017

Confirmed keynote speakers:

  • Dr Rachel Palfreyman, Associate Professor in German Studies (University of Nottingham)
  • Professor Jobst Welge, Professor of Literature (Stockholm University)
  • Dr Nicholas White, Reader in Modern French Literature (University of Cambridge)

The family saga is a constitutively transnational and multi-media genre, bridging highbrow and popular cultures. The genre counts some of the bestsellers of world literature, including not just novels, but also serial narratives (trilogies, cycles), and comics, ranging from the late nineteenth century up to the present day. As serial narratives with popular appeal, family sagas have also been adapted to or produced for cinema, radio and TV. Examples of family sagas include:  Zola’s Les Rougon-Macquart, Eça de Queirós’s Os Maias, Mann’s Buddenbrooks, Woolf’s The Years, Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Haley’s Roots, Cunningham’s Flesh and Blood, Spiegelman’s Maus, Mo Yan’s Big Breasts and Wide Hips, Ferrante’s Neapolitan Cycle, Reitz’s Heimat, Giordana’s La meglio gioventù, Fellowes’ Downton Abbey.

These family stories represent metonymically and metaphorically the life of nations as subject to the vagaries of local and world history. Family sagas respond to the need to reimagine nations at times of crisis spurred by economic, social, and political change; gender, ethnic, religious, and class conflicts; demographic transitions; and migration. They question pre-existing normative ideals of the nation, giving voice to silenced minorities, functioning as a cultural tool for the immanent critique of the national imagery and identity. The family saga as a cultural genre is instrumental to a politics of aesthetics, since it challenges and redefines the partition of the sensible that frames the nation as an imagined community.

This interdisciplinary conference will bring together researchers who are specialized in different linguistic and cultural areas and working on different media. The objective is to examine the circulation, forms, themes, and cultural functions of family sagas in world literatures and audio-visual cultures from a variety of perspectives.

Topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • family sagas in world literatures, including comics and graphic novels
  • family sagas in film, radio and TV series
  • family sagas and cross-media (adaptations) or trans-media storytelling
  • family sagas and translation
  • family sagas and seriality
  • family sagas and/as family memoirs (fiction and autobiography)
  • family sagas and gender (gender identity and relations)
  • family sagas and the nation (national heritage and identity)
  • family sagas and ethnicity (post-colonial and ethnic identities)
  • family sagas and new family structures/new forms of parenting
  • family sagas, migration, and transnational identities
  • family sagas, normativity, and the law

Paper proposals should include a title, a 500-word abstract, and a short biographical note with institutional affiliation, where appropriate, and email contact. Selected conference papers will be published as part of a collaborative volume.

Submit to Dr Alessio Baldini:


NOTIFICATION: 17th March 2017

written by Alice Duhan
25 January, 2017