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Possibilities in World Literary Criticism(s)

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Organizer: Manasvin Rajagopalan

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Despite the opening up of literary studies to the burgeoning and thriving world of literatures from around the world, particularly those in languages outside of the major traditions in European and US American contexts, the project of criticism and interpretation, of literary theory, remains largely confined to a unidirectional flow of interpretative lenses from Euro-US contexts into others. As Revathi Krishnaswamy has argued, the skepticism of scholars towards the universalizing narratives of literary production in non-Euro-US contexts has rarely taken into account the capacity of "theory" itself as a means to reject eurocentric biases, yielding what she calls "world lit without world lit crit" ("Towards World Literary Knowledges", 136). The lack of engagement with alternative forms of knowledge and meaning-making, of epistemes and theoretical frames from other literary traditions, has shaped the terrain of literary studies as one that consumes "world" literatures, without attending to the perspectival and epistemological modes of attending to the world, that characterize the production of these literatures. It is thus ubiquitious to draw poetic forms such as the ghazal ( Burney and Grewal,, 173) or the kavya into a global category of "lyric" without attending to the particularities that frame or yield divergent or even necessary interpretations of these literary genres, often relegating them to secondary positions within a larger category of poetic achievement.

This seminar aims to bring together scholars in exploring the possibilities of rethinking theory and criticism itself, through engagement with alternative forms of knowledge and experience that are fundamental to the creation of literatures in their context(s). Submissions that are either located in engaging non-Euro-US literatures or their epistemic equivalents, or otherwise decenter dominant modes of interpretation and theory are encouraged. Particular weight is given to papers addressing pre-20th century genres and contexts, particularly premodern and early modern works from Asia, Africa and other less studied literary spaces. 

Abstracts should be 300-400 words in length. 

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