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Rethinking World Literature/Other World Literatures (2011)

This symposium promises to help participants redefine and rethink the ways they research, teach, discuss, and conceptualize categories surrounding “world literature.” 

Event Information

“World” is often a pure abstraction, an empty container with no specific referent and a content designated from on high by ambitious anthologies and “great books” courses. In this conference, we want to consider not only what kind of problem world literature is but also other models or modes for thinking world literature—models that don’t take the world itself for granted and that take other worlds seriously. Can we imagine and practice other world literatures that might disrupt—rather than aid and abet—normative globalization? 

This symposium has the potential to have wide-ranging impact across the humanities. Some of the questions we are interested in exploring: What is new in this new world literature; or, what is its (new) world? And what happened to the “Third World” in world literature? What gets left out of World Literature, and what gets expropriated or marginalized by virtue of being included? What other worlds—above, below, or aside—does “World Literature” obscure? What other world-systems—besides the center/periphery models—could be at work in the making and masking of world literature? In what ways is World Literature a reaction to postcolonial studies or an alibi for a domesticated, depoliticized cosmopolitanism conducted in European languages and within Euro-American networks of power? What does world literature look like from other locations?  Are there alternative world-views or views of the world that don’t produce or reproduce the flat-earth literary maps of the world republic of letters, cosmopolitan comparatism, or normative transnationalism? Is “World Literature” merely what we call comparative literary study or literary commerce in the era of globalization? What happens to the theories and practices of World Literature when we factor in the effects of things like illiteracy and intellectual property laws, environmental and social crises, natural resource extraction, debt loads and dumping, commodity and capital accumulation, informal economic networks and labor pools, military and humanitarian domination, carbon (and other energy) economies? 

We are interested in approaches to the problems of world literatures that introduce wrinkles and wrenches in the time and space of World Literature as it is currently theorized.

November 3, 2011
1:00 - 6:00 PM
Ulrich Recital Hall (1121 Tawes Hall)

Friday, November 4, 2011
9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Ulrich Recital Hall (1121 Tawes Hall)

For more information contact: Robert Levine (


Thursday, November 3, 2011

1:30 to 3:00 pm | Session 1
Ben Baer, Princeton University, "World Literature's Other Heading"
Gerard Passannante, University of Maryland, "Disaster, Philology, and the Prehistory of 'World Literature'"
Andrew N. Rubin, Georgetown University, "Transmission, Translation, and Transnationalism: The Reinventions of the World Literary"

3:00 to 3:15 pm | Coffee 

3:15 pm to 4:45 pm | Round Table 1
Transnational Literatures: World/Postcolonial/American
Moderator: Zita Nunes, University of Maryland
Ben Baer, Princeton University
Joey Slaughter, Columbia University
Peter Mallios, University of Maryland
Valerie Orlando, University of Maryland
Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, New York University
Sangeeta Ray, University of Maryland 

4:45 pm to 6:00 pm | Reception 

Friday, November 4, 2011

8:30 am | Coffee 

9:00 am to 10:45 am | Session 2
Dina Al-Kassim, University of British Columbia Vancouver, "World Literature: Exposures of Address in Agamben, Duiker, and Wojnarowicz"
Nicole Rizzuto, Oklahoma State University, "Hospitality, Hostility, and Arrested Movements of 'World Literature'"
Hosam Aboul-Ela, University of Houston, "The World Republic of Theories"

11:00 am to 12:45 pm | Session 3
Elizabeth Deloughrey, University of California Los Angeles, "Satellite Planetarity: Militarism and the Ends of the Earth"
Alison Donnell, University of Reading, "Worlds Apart? Missing Readers, Forgotten Stories, and the Value of the Unreadable"
Joey Slaughter, Columbia University, "Open-Source Intelligence: State Secrets, Small Novels, and Other World Literary Forms"

12:45 pm to 2:00 pm | Lunch (on own)

2:00 pm to 3:45 pm | Session 4
Jennifer Wenzel, University of Michigan, "We are the World"
Peter Hitchcock, City University of New York, Baruch College, "A Grain of Sand: The Politics of Scale in World Literature"

Jessica Berman, University of Maryland Baltimore County, "World Literature from a 'Trans' Perspective: Interrogating the Transnational" 

3:15 pm to 3:45 pm | Coffee

3:45 pm to 5:00 pm | Round Table 2
Literary Geographies:
Shapes of Fields to Come

Moderator: David Sartorius, University of Maryland
Ralph Bauer, University of Maryland
Gaurav Desai, Tulane University
Wai Chee Dimock, Yale University
Peter Hitchcock, City University of New York, Baruch College
Sangeeta Ray, University of Maryland
Jennifer Wenzel, University of Michigan

Conference Visitor Information

Find information on parking, lodging and transportation to the University of Maryland.