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China in World Literature: World Literature in China

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Organizer: Yitzhak Lewis

Co-Organizer: Selina Lai Henderson

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China has long been a unique site of exploration, fascination, and exploitation in the imagination of writers and artists around the world. Whether as a symbol, a reference point, a poetic gesture, or an imagined space of cultural crossings, the distant Cathay has elicited Kafka’s imagination of the Far East in The Great Wall of China, Ezra Pound's bold translation of Chinese poetry, J. L. Borges’s Chinese Encyclopedia, and W.E.B Du Bois’s belief in the “miracles” of China in challenging global racial hegemony. The poetic and rhetorical gestures of invoking the Eastern Empire have persisted in World Literature into the modern day. Equally persistent, China itself has been a dedicated consumer of World Literature. The early Chinese translations of the New Testament and the Koran, the enthusiastic reception of world literatures among Chinese intellectuals in the interwar era, and the ongoing translation of world literature at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing are just a few to name when considering China’s sustained interest in engaging with literature beyond its national borders.   This seminar opens a comparative conversation, bringing together perspectives on this multi-directional flow of literary production. Our goal is not only to examine the articulated nature of these operations—that is, the circulation of China in world literary production, and the circulation of world literature in China—but also to interrogate the complexities and contradictions of such transnational literary engagements across different spatial, temporal, and cultural landscapes. We seek papers that deal with any aspect of Chinese consumption of world literature (in original text or in translation); with the invocation of China in world literature, and with the reciprocal, interconnected nature of these two.   Paper topics may include, but are not limited to: The reception of various works or figures of World Literature in China The translation of world literature into Chinese The translation of Chinese literature as world literature into other languages The circulation of Chinese literature among authors and literary production in other languages   The invocation of China in works of world literature The literary travels of authors in China The poetic and discursive function of China in world literary works  

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