Authorship in a Global and Transnational Context
30-31 May 2024, KU Leuven (Belgium)
Since the consolidation of world literature as a field of research in the 1990s, the study of literature beyond national frameworks has almost become commonplace. While the focus of this discipline has been on the transformations and shifting positions of literary texts as they circulate across borders, the impact of this transnational perspective on notions of authorship remains understudied. In What Is World Literature? (2003), David Damrosch elaborates on the polemics surrounding Rigoberta Menchú’s memoir Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú (1985), co-authored with Elizabeth Burgos, warning about the potential pitfalls of introducing works into new contexts, but he does not fully theorize the importance of transnational authorship for the making and circulation of world literature (an importance that has only grown since he published his book). Historically, research on exile literature has helped highlight the relationship between memory, trauma and unbelonging as well as the challenges of giving voice to someone else's story, particularly in the genre of testimonies. Rooted in specific historical moments (Holocaust, Latin American revolutions), this framework proves too limiting to analyze the diversity of aesthetic practices, subjective experiences and cultural contexts that characterizes today's transnational literary production. In parallel with the transnational shift brought about by world literature, migrant and refugee literature, broadly understood as all writing that is shaped by the experience of (forced) migration, have become an object of considerable scholarly attention in literary studies, as visible, for instance, in Mads Rosendahl Thomsen's comparative discussion of modernist and contemporary migrant authors in relation to cosmopolitan culture in Mapping World Literature (2008) or in the important role that the aesthetics of displacement play in the interdisciplinary book Refugee Imaginaries (2019). Despite these crucial developments, investigations on the effects of the increasing global mobility on literature tend to favor biographical readings, accentuating the multiple ethnic affiliations of individual authors, their complicated relation to the nation-state and the sense of linguistic and cultural division that inflects their works. This return to the author in rather conventional ways has not led to significant theoretical innovations that foreground the subversive potential of transnational texts in redefining who counts as an author.
This symposium aims to break new ground in literary studies by shifting the discussion to notions of authorship that go beyond national and individual singularity. Recent contributions, such as studies on digital writing and the World Authorship volume (2020), edited by Tobias Boes, Rebecca Braun and Emily Spiers, move away from the Romantic image of the author as a solitary figure and foreground the broad network of agents involved in the making of a text, including translators, institutions, editors, new media or writing collectives. This symposium takes the debate one step further by emphasizing the collaborative and multilingual nature of transnational authorship in contexts of migration. The concept of transnational authorship refers to literary texts co-written by authors with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds as well as single-authored texts that result from collective networks of solidarity across borders and collaborative dialogues with migrants. Even though transnational authorship arises from a sense of cosmopolitan solidarity with distant others, it is deeply embedded in the political and social hierarchies that shape national migration policies and the global order. Therefore, the symposium will take into account possible linguistic and cultural asymmetries and multiple scales of power relations (gender, age, geographical location, legal status, etc.) that impinge on the production of transnational texts.
The symposium is part of the ERC Starting Grant project “COLLAB: Making Migrant Voices Heard through Literature: How Collaboration Is Changing the Cultural Field”, which looks at a wide array of collaborative practices that create spaces for literary participation of migrants. While the project focuses specifically on contemporary literary production in Europe, the symposium welcomes case studies from various historical periods, languages and geographies, particularly from the Global South.
To further develop the notion of transnational authorship from varied disciplinary and linguistic angles, the symposium invites papers that include, but are not limited to, the following topics:
- Case studies of transnational authorship and collaboration located in Global South or involving non-European languages
- Networks of solidarity between writers across borders, especially in contexts of migration
- Examples of retelling and literary remediation in transnational and multilingual contexts
- The role of digital media in facilitating transnational collaborations between authors
- Self-critical reflections by writers, artists and activists involved in transnational collaborative practices
- Translation and multilingualism in transnational authorship
- Power relations in transnational authorship
- Circulation and sociological approaches to transnational authorship
- Historical approaches to transnational authorship, especially during the interwar period and in contexts of migration
We welcome proposals in English for 20-minute papers, followed by discussion and collective debate. Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words and a bionote (150 words) to email@example.com by 15 December 2023. Notification of acceptance will be sent by 15 January 2024.
Leila Essa, Institute for Cultural Inquiry, Utrecht University
Núria Codina (Principal Investigator) and the COLLAB team.
More information on the COLLAB project can be found here: https://www.arts.kuleuven.be/english/research/research-projects/collab
The COLLAB project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon Europe research and innovation programme (grant agreement n° 101076847). Views and opinions expressed in this call are those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Council. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.