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Seeing the World

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Organizer: Travis Landry

Co-Organizer: Pashmina Murthy

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Theories of world literature have touched upon questions of scale, non-recognition, and estrangement. Implicit in these theories is the way distance mediates how the world is perceived. For this seminar, we want to consider distance as a provocation for conceptualizing the category of world literature. What happens when world literature is taken neither as a bounded category nor as a defined methodology and not even as a problematic? What does it then become? By foregrounding "distance" in order to resituate the world in literature and its worldliness, we want to consider world literature as an optic, as a way of seeing the world differently. Our emphasis is now on the particular strategies deployed by literary fiction that manipulate the reader's familiarity with and sense of the world.
We invite papers that consider how literature offers a way to see the world anew. We welcome a range of critical and theoretical perspectives that speak to the overall topic, including phenomenology, postcolonial theory, theories of affect, and narrative theory. Questions to consider might include:

Does sight mediate knowledge of the world? Does the imagination mediate sight?
What is the relationship between looking at the world and how one comes to terms with it?
How do narratives navigate perceptual distance?
To what extent is the perceptual field itself a false view of the world?
In what way does witnessing play a role in defining the world in world literature?
What new orientations are made possible when we foreground world literature as an optic?

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