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Cultural Pluralism and Literary Innovation

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Organizer: Donald Wehrs

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This seminar proposes to explore various kinds of cultural pluralism (from ethnic diversity to religious ecumenicalism to heterogeneity through trade routes or colonialism) and their relation to fostering or shaping multiple types of literary innovation--from genre to theme to venue to style, media, or platform. Examples might include confluences of Persian, Indian, and Greek influences on genre formation in the ancient world, the blending of classical and Celtic material in medieval romance, the interfusion of Islamic piety and Neoplatonic erotology in Sufi Arabic or Persian poetry, the mingling of marginalized and elite discursive, generic forms, the entwining of European modernist modes of characterization or narrative indirection with those of classical Chinese historiography, or the effects of cultural and historical eclecticism on how the stories told by multimodal techniques in streaming online video series are shaped. Among the questions that might be explored are how do different forms of pluralism yield different types of innovation, how does reconfiguring the literary sphere reshape cultural-political spheres, what sorts of pluralism spur emancipatory or reformative energies, are some sorts of pluralism more receptive to freedom of literary expression than others, and what theoretical paradigms are particularly fruitful for exploring the sources and consequences of literary innovation.      

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