How Literatures Begin: A Comparative Approach to Problems and Methods

How Literatures Begin:
A Comparative Approach to Problems and Methods

Symposium for Friday, April 13, 2018
Denis Feeney (Department of Classics)
Joel Lande (Department of German)

A Comparative Approach to Problems and Methods

Although we often take it for granted that there are literatures composed in a host of different languages, the emergence of a literature is an improbable and complex historical achievement. In fact, most known languages did not develop writing, let alone a literature. This symposium seeks to discuss the cultural processes that, in a variety of different contexts, brought forth literatures. Our focus shall be not just on concrete historical circumstances, but also on the procedures, structures, and institutions that encouraged the development of distinct literatures. We are particularly interested in considering such issues as the consequences of different varieties of script, the creation of writing and the interaction with oral practices, the rise of print circulation, the passage from sacred to profane writing and reading practices, the use of antecedent cultural models, the distinction between local custom and cultural appropriation, the role of translation, and the participation in nation-building projects.

Our one-day symposium shall bring together scholars from within the Princeton community as well as a small number of external guests. In doing so, we wish to establish a context for discussion among a number of faculty members at Princeton who share an interest in literary beginnings. Our goal is to initiate dialogue among a group of disciplines at Princeton that do not often have the occasion for scholarly exchange. In particular, our symposium shall bring together scholars of East Asian, Ancient European, African, and Modern European literatures. The compact format of the symposium should allow for an intensive discussion.

Introduction: Joel Lande (Princeton University)

Panel 1: Ancient Paradigms
Deborah Steiner (Columbia University)
Sheldon Pollock (Columbia University)
Alberto Rigolio (Princeton University)

Panel 2: East Asian Focus
Ksenia Chizhova (Princeton University)
Wiebke Denecke (Boston University)
Martin Kern (Princeton University)

Panel 3: Modern European/African Focus
Jane Newman (University of California – Irvine)
Michael Wachtel (Princeton University)
Simon Gikandi (Princeton University)
Wrap-Up: Denis Feeney (Princeton University

(Event is organized by Denis Feeney and Joel Lande. Sponsored by the Department of German, Department of Classics, East Asian Studies, The Humanities Council, Comparative Literature, and Slavic)