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Does the Untranslated Travel?: Towards a Regional World Literature

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Co-Organizer: Sourit Bhattacharya

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The session will delve into the possibility of treating untranslated regional literature across the world as world literature and hence the titular question: does the untranslated travel? The predominant framework of ‘world literature’ is premised on translation where only translated texts travel across cultures to be worthy of the appellation, world literature. Against the grain of this Anglocentric and monolingual edifice, the seminar suggests that even an untranslated text can travel and become an important case study for world literature, if it addresses questions that go beyond regional, ethnic and national boundaries to echo transcultural experiences and motifs. The inherently multilingual literary cultures of South Asia, for example, extend this point about vernacularizing world literature as a political mode of reading.

At a deeper level, we have to ask, what language we perceive our ‘worlds’ in. If a regional subject thinks in a regional language, which is one of the many languages spoken in her nation and acquires a notion of the world in that tongue, the literature, she composes, has an appeal to her understanding of the world. Is the resultant text an instance of world literature? This is a question about the coupling of language and the subjective and cultural/material experience of ‘worlding.’ How is the ‘world’ of world literature different from regional content to a normatively Anglophone material? We will also displace the notions of travel and circulation, endemic to world literature, from the plane of language to that of idea and matter. In other words, can ideas travel across cultures without linguistic translation? Can matters or material situations expressed in ideas be ‘worldly’?

For example, a text which is rooted in the material specificity of a particular region and written in a regional language, can still have a material extension into the ‘world.’ How is this regionally grounded arrival at the notion of the ‘world’ different from an Anglophone translation, deemed as world literature in the standard sense of the term? When the region travels to the world or inheres the world within itself, or better still, makes an inductive gesture towards the world, it is a materiality that travels and circulates without their being any linguistic translation. These points beg the question whether an untranslated regional text, marked by a trans-national idea or materiality can be significant in a discussion of world literature. The session hopes to tackle the varied nuances of this question through readings of untranslated regional literatures from across the world.   


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