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Centre for Modern European Literature and Culture

The CHASE Comparative Literature Summer School 2019, which took place from 24 – 26 June, was organised by the Centre for Modern European Literature at the University of Kent. This year’s framework was the paradigm of the Global South circulating around the recurring questions ‘Is comparative literature for the globalized age?’ and ‘Whose world exists in world literature?’

Following the success of the inaugural CHASE summer school in comparative literature in June 2018, this second iteration was designed to build on the first event while taking its intellectual focus in a new direction. The programme was designed for humanities students working on comparative research projects who wished to broaden their knowledge of the discipline, and their use of comparative methodologies, in the light of both classical comparativism and more recent theoretical frameworks within the emerging discipline of world literature and the rise of the global South.

The summer school was generously funded by the Consortium for the Humanities in South-East England (CHASE). The programme is archived below and a report on the 2019 summer school by Penny Cartwright (PDF) is available.

Programme

Monday 24 June

10.00 Coffee and welcome

10.30 Student introductions

11.30 Seminar 1: The Origins and History of Comparative Literature (Ben Hutchinson)

14.30 Seminar 2: World Literature and its Discontents (Francesca Orsini)

17.30 Keynote lecture 1: Rosinka Chaudhuri (Centre for Studies in Social Sciences,Calcutta): ‘Whose World exists in World Literature? Reading Emily Apter and Rabindranath Tagore’

Tuesday 25 June

10.30 Seminar 3: The Pragmatics of Comp Lit: Publishing and Applying for Jobs

11.30 Seminar 4: Beckett and World Literature (Shane Weller)

14.30 Preparation of presentations

17.30 Keynote lecture 2: Jessica Berman (The University of Maryland Baltimore County): ‘Trans Reading as Comparative Literature’

Wednesday 26 June

10.00 – 17.00 Student presentations

 

The Summer School began with a seminar led by Professor Francesca Orsini (SOAS) encouraging us to reflect on alternative concepts beyond the mainstream models of world literature. Approaches discussed included Global South-South comparisons, focusing in particular on Shu-mei Shih’s notion of Sinophone Studies. Afterwards, participants had time to reflect on how in our own projects the text or author thinks of the world and whether it communicates a new comparative model. The international range of the participants – with projects on African, Asian, European, and Latin American topics – allowed for insightful discussions addressing everyone’s research questions.

The subsequent panel discussion with Dr Joanne Pettitt (University of Kent), Professor Francesca Orsini (SOAS), and Dr Patricia Novillo-Corvalán (University of Kent) on the pragmatics of comparative literature addressed questions related to employability in world literature studies. This addition to our in-depth theoretical discussions across three days offered us the opportunity to think about which route to pursue after PhD submission.

With Professor Ben Hutchinson’s (University of Kent) seminar, participants had the opportunity to study the history of comparative literature dating back to the 18th century. Johann Gottfried Herder, who is – surprisingly – aware of his prejudices and the power imbalance between ‘East’ and ‘West’, insists on the incommensurability of cultures; one intriguing point of discussion that emerged was the extent to which Germany’s contemporary regional identity, visible particularly after WWII, can be traced back to Herderian view of folktales highlighting the value of ‘regional spirit’. We then continued our discussions about the importance of world literature for comparative studies with Professor Shane Weller (University of Kent). As a case study, we explored themes, settings and characters in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot: our close readings explored how a work can be considered to belong to the body of world literature, when there is none.

The final day of the summer school offered students the platform to present their research embedded in knowledge acquired over the course of the three days. Constructive feedback from academic staff and peers was very insightful, and proved a fittingly stimulating note on which to conclude an invigorating week.

Lida Amiri