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Radical Inclusion: Reframing World Literature

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Organizer: Marie Ostby

Co-Organizer: Wendy Knepper

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World literature remains an open problem: rather paradoxically, it encompasses all the literatures of the world, even as it operates through certain principles and practices of exclusion to refer to a narrower set of works. Whether world literature is categorized as a set of masterpieces, a mode of circulation/reception, or an expression of world-systemic inequality, it designates a subset that has been fundamentally shaped by volatile and uneven power relations in the world. This seminar considers how world literature might address and challenge the exclusions and losses that have framed its conception, history and poetics. Such a critical perspective considers how a world-making literature (Pheng Cheah) strives to enact change in the world through its ‘ethical recognition of the lives that are worth protecting, worth valuing’ (Judith Butler). In our view, this kind of world literature concerns questions about life in the most expansive sense of the term: extending to the relationship among life-forms (human and nonhuman lives), forms of life (cultures/(non)citizens/communities) and the life of forms (artistic/symbolic) through time/space. How does world literature register and remediate the inclusions/exclusions that structure life, the world, and the work of world literature?

Possible topics might include:


The politics of world literature, such as in connection with ecocriticism, human rights, feminist/gendered/queer perspectives, postcolonial perspectives, theories of violence, biopolitics and alter-globalism
The ethics of world literature, such as through Butler’s work on precarity and livability
The definition and categorization of world literature, particularly its normative capacity (Cheah, Warwick Research Collective, Pascale Casanova)
Formal analysis, especially with respect to the idea of the literary world (Eric Hayot), affordance (Caroline Levine), dissensus (Jacques Rancière), relationality (Édouard Glissant), and unevenly combined genres/forms
Plasticity (Catherine Malabou) and world literature: how world literature crafts the world/world literature anew through its capacity to form other lives, worlds, imaginaries, relations

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