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Socialism and World Literature

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Organizer: Daniel Pratt

Co-Organizer: Steven Lee

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Since the publication of The Communist Manifesto, in which Marx and Engels claim that “National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature,” Socialism and World Literature have been intimately, albeit ambivalently, connected. On the one hand, Socialist thought provides an anti-nationalist ideological argument for a world literature, one that can connect literatures through its historical teleology. Socialist countries developed an alternative canon around the notion of historical development, bringing together not only Central and Eastern European writers with the fellow travelers of other national literatures but also authors from Asia, South America, and Africa. In the interwar period, the Soviet Union became a beacon of hope not only for Western authors, but for the marginalized across the planet. By virtue of its location, the Soviet Union also served to de-center the traditional Eurocentric (or even merely Franco-Anglo-Germanic) perspectives on World Literature
 
On the other hand, Marxist thought has provided the strongest critiques of World Literature. The market factors in publishing have created a world of translation that skews towards the familiar Western countries (Spivak). The mammoth presses of the West then press the same translations on the rest of the world, further entrenching the notion of World Literature as Western Literature. Other approaches to World Literature further entrench the national (Casanova), thereby undermining the supra-nationalist approach to literature itself. 
 
This panel seeks reimagine World Literature in terms of Socialism, both in historical and theoretical approaches. How did Socialist countries and Socialist groups create an alternative understanding of World Literature? Is such a utopian vision available to us today? How does ideology allow for a de-nationalization of literature? Does contemporary technology allow us to bypass the market to create a non-commodified literature? Is it possible to speak of a Socialist mode of translation?Does the history of Socialist thought allow us to reconfigure the notion of world? 
 
Because this panel strives to address World Literature, we hope to have panelists to represent several continents, either as individuals or as the collective. 
 
Please submit an abstract of 200-300 words along with a short bio.

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