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A Multicultural World Literature?: Reading the Contemporary Anglophone Authors from America and Britain

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Organizer: Simla Dogangun

Co-Organizer: Asif Iqbal

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When diversity has become a buzzword in world literary studies, it is necessary to identify authors who prompt us to rethink more enduring questions of belonging, emotions, and registering differences. These questions are often posed by writers who traverse multiple identities pertaining to class, gender/sexual identity and ethnic origins in our interconnected world. Contemporary writers such as the American author, Elif Batuman, and the British author Zia Haider Rahman belong to the emergent writerly body of Anglo-American multicultural aesthetic and they both carry traces of history. As an afterthought, they depart from the tendency to recreate the past imbued by the sights and sounds of a homeland long left behind, as in Rushdie, Desai, and Gurnah. In the case of Batuman, her parents are Turkish born, while Rahman migrated to Britain from Bangladesh in the tender age of eight. Their presence in the global literary scene bears a growing insignia of diversification of Anglo-American literature scene. In fact, many such writers in contemporary literature belong to hyphenated cultural spaces and are increasingly shaping and influencing the contours of global fiction. In other words, they are helping us to shape a new definition of “world literature.” Therefore, writers have come to define “world literature” anew by moving away from Goethe’s narrowly conceptualized vision of international literature and by recalibrating Auerbach’s more ambitiously define scope of comparable internationalized literature.

The aim of this seminar is to expand on multicultural writers – with their origins in different parts of the world – who have made significant inroads in the Anglo-American literary space to not only mold its contours, but also to reshape what we have come to identify as “world literature” in our times. They are what the concept “world literature” should strive to be. We seek papers that reflect on the idea of a world literature that simultaneously carries the notion of being a cosmopolitan author acutely aware of cultural specificities and the ways in which a common culture can be perceived while attending to the particularities of home. We welcome original comparative papers that contribute to the theoretical and methodological discussion of the concept of world literature by way of texts, authors that zoom in on more than the prescriptive and normative meaning of diversity and suggest (by way of their narratives) new ways of dealing with alterities that characterize a more ethical form of multiculturality.


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