Skip to Content

Transnational Literature and Transnational Aesthetics: Developments and Negotiations

«Back To Seminars

Organizer: Tijana Przulj

Contact the Seminar Organizers

In his 2021 book Transnational Literature: The Basics, Paul Jay describes transnational literature as “a particular type of literature, emergent at an identifiable historical moment and dealing, collectively, with a set of issues and themes associated with decolonization, globalization, postmodernity, and technology”. This open definition accommodates quite well Jessica Berman's understanding of the prefix -trans, which she invites us to interpret as carrying with it “an oppositional valence derived from the prefix as it appears in the word ‘transgress’ seeking out transgressive relationships, affiliations or interconnections among literary texts and their circuits of travel” (2014, State of the Discipline Report). Though there is disagreement about what precisely the terms transnationalism, transnational and transnational literature mean, this seminar aims to combine Jay’s and Berman’s perspectives in its explorations of transnational aesthetics and the corresponding aesthetic responses. A number of scholars have written about transnational literature and its aesthetics, among them Nami Shin, Russ Castronovo, John McLeod and Jahan Ramazani (transnational poetics). Despite this, the notion of transnational aesthetics remains underdeveloped. In the same vein, the corresponding aesthetic responses remain somewhat of a mystery. On the topic of aesthetic response in general, Rita Felski points to a fundamental entanglement between texts, their aesthetics and their readers when she writes: “Severed from everything that makes me who I am, could I have any kind of aesthetic response at all?” This line reflects a development in recent scholarship on both aesthetics and ways of reading: In order for any of the meanings and aesthetic potentials in a text to be actualized, they need to be activated by a reader. The reader, in turn, experiences an aesthetic response. Both Rita Felski and other scholars such as Winfried Fluck (second narrative), Amanda Anderson (rumination), Dorothy Hale (aesthetics of alterity), M. J. A. León (aesthetic intimacy) and others, have written in some detail about this kind of activation and the ensuing aesthetic response. However, aesthetic response remains understudied in relation to transnational literature. This seminar will thus look to sketch the outlines of a transnational aesthetics as it emerges both in our contemporary moment and in relation to the scholarship about reader-text relationships and aesthetic response.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

Transnational aesthetics and nostalgia
Transnational aesthetics and the everyday
Aesthetic response, decolonization, globalization
Aesthetic response and affect in transnational literature
Intimacy, diasporic intimacy and transnational aesthetics
New approaches to transnational literature and aesthetics
Ways of reading transnational literature
Migration, transnationalism and aesthetics in literature

«Back To Seminars