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Porous Borders: Mapping Multilingual Literature in Central and Eastern Europe

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Organizer: Stijn Vervaet

Co-Organizer: Mónika Dánél

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Porous Borders: Mapping Multilingual Literature in Central and Eastern Europe In 19th- and 20th-century Central and Eastern Europe (broadly speaking), the layering of different, usually conflicting political maps on each other often led to the re-framing of geographical spaces and to the traumatic displacement of their inhabitants. The political re-mapping created various exchanges between languages and cultures, accompanied by different power asymmetries and implicit or explicit nationally coded hierarchies. This overlapping of maps “produced” bilingual authors with a specific “multilingual self-awareness” and the ability and habit to “commute” (Thomka 2018) between different languages. Their work makes it possible to imagine such a multiple national affiliation and invites us to construct new theoretical paradigms and to rethinkthe traditional concepts and institutions of national literatures. In the past decade and a half, literary multilingualism has received increasing scholarly attention, but this work has been mostly done by scholars working in German (Yildiz, Dembeck, Gramling), Romance languages (Grutman, Suchet, Helmich), and English (Pandey); but far less so in Central and Eastern Europe. While multilingual literature seems to be fashionable, critics have pointed out that multilingualism in contemporary (English) novels tends to function as a pose or a form of “tokenism” that plays into the awards culture, thus turning literary multilingualism into “the hallmark of marketable art bound for global consumption” (Pandey 2016: 20); others have emphasized the double bind “between world literature and translational monolingualism” (Gramling 2016: 24).  This seminar will look into multilingual literature as a historically rooted phenomenon in Central and Eastern Europe, explore its politics and aesthetics, and ask how the study of this literature can generate new theoretical and methodological insights relevant to current debates about world literature. We invite papers on: - Philology and multilingualism (cf. Dembeck); philology both as political and hermeneutic project; sociolinguistic approaches to multilingual literature - Multilingualism, transnationalism, histories of empire and “inter-imperiality” (Doyle) -Multilingualism and literary modernism - (Contemporary) multilingual literature and debates about world literature; the tension between multilingual works and monolingual national literary canons; multilingual literature and (un)translatability -  The bilingualism of minority literatures - The aesthetics of accents, dialects, regionalisms or substandard language forms in literature  - Gender and ethnic aspects of the production, circulation and interpretation of multilingual literature in Central and Eastern Europe - The bilingual author and cognition: bilingualism and emotions (cf. Pavlenko, Besemeres), practices of “self-translation,” bilingualism and synesthesia (cf. Lvovich) 

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