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Oceanic Writing: The Asia-Pacific in Global Literature

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Organizer: Ryan Johnson

Co-Organizer: Mark Byron

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This seminar welcomes papers on the relationship between the Southern Hemisphere and East Asia in modern and contemporary literature. East Asia has become increasingly important to the study of World Literature. Scholars have begun to investigate the smaller worlds formed by literary exchange within East Asia before Western incursions into the region. Others have called for “Global Asian Studies,” stressing the need to study the impact of East Asian literature on World Literature from non-Eurocentric points of view. At the same time, the Southern Hemisphere has attracted attention for its capacity to challenge European notions of time and literary transmission. The immense time scale of the Indigenous occupation of Australia and its multi-millennia history of oral literary transmission seems to complicate or even invert time scales essential to the study of World Literature from a European perspective. The attempts of writers  to reconcile Indigenous and foreign time scales in Australia, Aotearoa / New Zealand, and elsewhere in the Pacific region, have been upheld as evidence of how modern World Literature often entails reconciliation of competing time scales and definitions of literature itself.

This seminar merges these significant streams in literary studies to produce a more comprehensive understanding of the importance of the Asia Pacific region to World Literature. How can the interplay between the Southern Hemisphere and East Asia recenter studies of World Literature away from European and North American paradigms, and perhaps even revise those paradigms themselves? How do art and cinema affect the transmission of literature throughout the Asia Pacific, ranging across locations as diverse as Taiwan, Guam, Hawai’i, and the Philippines to Indonesia and South America below the equator? How does the flow of literary material, through migration or translation, redraw the boundaries of the Pacific and East Asia? What new literary or geopolitical configurations emerge when the East Asia and the Southern Hemisphere are considered as a single region of literary production?  Papers may range across any period or genre, but are encouraged to consider how the flow of artistic and literary exchange across the Pacific region, broadly conceived, aids in reconsidering both geopolitical alignments and the notions of “world” and “literature” at large.


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