Our inaugural session ran from July 4-29, 2011 at Peking University in Beijing and brought together sixty participants from fourteen countries. July 2011 was a real festival for world literature in Beijing, as our first four-week program was prefaced by the international conference of the newly founded World Literature Association, “The Rise of World Literatures,” organized by our host Zhao Baisheng. Looking into seminal issues for this fast-changing field, focusing in particular on relations between the nation and the globe, centers and peripheries, the conference opened the summer session for speakers from around the world. Our Institute’s participants continued to explored these issues further through our core lectures, seminars, guest lectures, outings, and cultural events. Our four full-time faculty members for the 2011 session included David Damrosch (Harvard University), Theo D’haen (K.U. Leuven), Zhang Longxi (City University of Hong Kong), and Zhao Baisheng (Peking University), who offered five seminars:
“Reading World Literatures in the Modern Era”
“Poetics of World Literature”
“From Goethe Onward: A Survey of World Literature”
“World Literature before Goethe: Theoretical and Methodological Issues”
Theories of World Literature”
The keynote speaker for our 2011 program was Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak from Columbia University, who offered our participants three lectures on gender, post-colonialism, and literature as civic action. Our second guest lecturer, Alfred Hornung, Professor of English and American Studies at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, engaged the audience with an effervescent lecture on the global outreach and worldliness of the literature of the American South. A highlight of the summer was a closing session that Zhao Baisheng held with Mo Yan, whose darkly comic novels were already well known to many of our participants well before his receipt of the Nobel Prize in October 2012.
Thanks to extensive efforts by our assistants Emily Cersonsky, Chen Guangchen, and Zhang Wenru, Beijing proved to be also a center for building community through outings such as a visit to the Lu Xun Museum, a space dedicated to the famous Chinese writer and activist, and a tour of the Great Wall, which gave our participants a flavor of China’s history and culture from a worldly perspective. A final banquet at Peking University brought together some of the participants in staging a scene from Cao Xueqin’s classic novel “The Dream of the Red Chamber,” which concluded our 2011 session and opened the path for future encounters in other worldly locales.