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Writerly Worlds and Worldly Writers: Transcultural Receptions of German Literature

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Organizer: Jocelyn Aksin

Co-Organizer: Peter Schweppe

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While recent attention to world literatures and literary worlds has shed light on the significant roles that distribution, translation, and technology play in intertwining global histories of literature, German-speaking writers from Heinrich Heine to Katharina Oguntoye, Herta Müller, or Fatima El-Tayeb underscore the nuances of reception within and across specific cultures and academic disciplines. For Birgit Tautz in Translating the World (2018), “by wrestling literature away from the narrative of the nation, and by repositioning literary life vis-à-vis city and world, [we gain] the story of literature in the making” (10), and as B. Venkat Mani outlines in Recoding World Literature (2017), reading global texts allows us to “(…) inhabit the worlds created by [authors] through the act of reading, often in translation. We receive their works recoded in languages in which we read them; at a distance from their national locations, we assign new meanings to their works” (10). Drawing on Tautz’s and Mani’s discussions of reception and recoding, and in alignment with other works including Jennifer Ruth Hosek’s Sun, Sex, Socialism (2012), Veronika Fuechtner and Mary Rhiel’s Imagining Germany Imagining Asia (2013), or Anke Biendarra’s Germans Going Global (2012), this seminar poses the question of how various nations, cultures, translations, or technologies factor into the reception of an author or oeuvre. Taking Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore (2002) as an example, the novel's eponymous teenage protagonist traverses realms that evoke and elaborate on Kafka's literary style as characterized by its embrace of ambiguity over clarity, thereby signaling how Franz Kafka resonates forward into contemporary Japanese literature. Placing the German language at the forefront of our investigation, our seminar explores transcultural receptions of German literature by examining the global diffusion of German-language texts and writers; in doing so, we also probe implications for the future of literature and writing in the twenty-first century.

This seminar welcomes papers that address German-language worldly receptions that overlap or build on the following:

German-language texts/films and world-audiences (local, transnational, other)
German-language writers and particular audiences (literary, disciplinary, other)
Performances and ephemeral traces of writers
Comparative literary receptions
Literary institutions, practices, agents key to distribution histories
Publishing houses, book fairs, libraries, and “bibliomigrancies”
Scholarly and theoretical interventions

We envision a workshop format with papers that are pre-circulated to all seminar participants and short presenter summaries at the conference in order to allow for more discussion and feedback.

Please contact the seminar organizers Peter Schweppe ( and Jocelyn Aksin ( with any questions.

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