June 28 - July 8


Helena Buescu, "'Doing' Things in World Literature"  

The starting point of this seminar is the realization that there are a number of different actions and events that seem to recur in a variety of different literatures around the world. Among these we will single out: 1) constructing heroes ; 2) plots and counterplots; 3) loving; 4) making worlds. Yet, these phenomena are differently elaborated in different cultures and literatures. In this seminar we will investigate how some of these literatures may enter into dialogue over a common set of phenomena. The comparative grounding of World Literature is therefore a theoretical position that the work in the seminar must also interrogate. Literary works to be dealt with might include selections from: Ancient Egypt; Ritual Mayan texts; The Bible; Sophocles; T’ang poetry; Dante; Machiavelli; Camões; Racine; Alfred de Musset; Dostoyevsky; Pepetela.

Helena Carvalhão Buescu is professor of Comparative Literature at ULisboa. HelenaShe has published in Portuguese and in international periodicals, authored eleven books, and directed an anthology of World Literature in Portuguese, in 6 volumes (2018-2020). She collaborates with foreign Universities in Europe, United States and Brazil, as well as international Schools such as IWL, HERMES, and INCH. She founded and directed the Centre for Comparative Studies (ULisboa) and served on several International Boards.  She is member of Academia Europaea, the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies (Univ. London) and St. John’s College (UCambridge). Also member of Academia das Ciências de Lisboa. She has won several prizes.

Session 1: World Literature and Comparative Literature

  • Some secondary texts on the question. Introduction to the course. Sandra Bermann and Haun Saussy.

Session 2: Constructing heroes

  • Homer, Illiad (Canto XXIV)
  • Camões, The Old Man in Restelo (Canto IV) and Adamastor (Canto V, 37-60) from The Lusiads
  • Pepetela, Mayombe (Chapter 5 and Epilogue).
  • Additional reading: René Girard, The Violence and the Sacred.

Session 3: Plots and counterplots (1)

  • Ancient Egypt, "The Story of Sinuhe"
  • Sophocles, Ajax.
  • Additional Reading: article by John Baines.

Session 4: Plots and counterplots (2)

  • Machiavelli, The Prince (three last chapters)
  • Musset, Lorenzaccio.

Session 5: Loving (1)

  • Bible, Song of Solomon
  • T’ang poetry
  • Dante, Divina Commedia (“Inferno”, Paolo and Francesca)

Session 6: Loving (2)

  • Racine, Phaedra
  • Dostoyevsky, White Nights
  • Additional reading: Niklas Luhmann (chapter 6, Love as Passion).

Session 7: Making and unmaking worlds (1)

  • Ritual Mayan texts.
  • Borges, "The Immortal"
  • Additional Reading: Mircea Eliade, Cosmos and History. The Myth of the Eternal Return

Session 8: Making and unmaking worlds (2)

  • Voltaire, "Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne"
  • E.A. Poe, "The Fall of the house of Usher"
  • Machado de Assis, "Missa do Galo"
  • Camilo Pessanha,  “Who soiled these linens, who left them stained and torn”
  • Additional Reading:  Assmann, Aleida. "Texts, Traces, Trash: The Changing Media of Cultural Memory."


Dieter Lamping, "The Diversity of World Literature"

The seminar will analyse and discuss the different meanings of ‚world literature‘ as a literary term used in theoretical concepts from Goethe to the present. It will focus on concepts that reflect the relations between world literature and literary communication, world literature and canon, world literature and literary reception, world literature and cosmopolitanism. world literature and capitalism, world literature and multiculturalism. A selected number of literary texts will be read in light of the theoretical concepts.

Dieter Lamping

Dieter Lamping is Professor Emeritus of General and Comparative Literature at Mainz University. He has published books on modern poetry from Baudelaire to Bob Dylan, Jewish literature of the 20th century, and literary theory, also monographs on Goethe, Kafka and Karl Jaspers. His publications on world literature include Die Idee der Weltliteratur (The Idea of World Literature, 2010) and Meilensteine der Weltliteratur (Milestones of World Literature, 2015). Together with Galin Tihanov he recently edited Vergleichende Weltliteraturen/ Comparative World Literatures (2019).


Session 1: National Literature or World Literature?

  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Campagne in France.
  • Georg Forster, "Introduction" to A Voyage Round the World.
  • Anna Seghers, The Seventh Cross.
  • Carl Zuckmayer, The Devil’s General.

Session 2: Goethe’s Idea of World Literature

  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Conversation with Eckermann.
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “On World Literature.”
  • Fritz Strich, The Idea.

Session 3: World Literature and Canon

  • B. Venkat Mani, "Masters and Masterpieces" in Recoding World Literature.
  • Georg Brandes, “World Literature.”
  • René Etiemble, “Do We Have to Revise the Notion of World Literature?”

Session 4: World Literature, Distribution, and Translation

  • Albert Guérard, “What Is World Literature and the Instrument: Translation.”
  • David Damrosch, “What Is World Literature?”
  • Susan Bassnett, “Introduction: The Rocky Relationship between Translation Studies and World Literature."

Session 5: World Literature and Cosmopolitanism

  • John Pizer, “Cosmopolitanism and Weltliteratur.”
  • Zheng Zhenduo, “A View on the Unification of Literature.”
  • Thomas Mann, “Nationale und internationale Kunst."

Session 6: World Literature and Capitalism

  • Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, “The Communist Manifesto.” 
  • Emily Apter, “Literary World-Systems."

Session 7: World Literature Beyond Europe

  • Rabindranath Tagore, “World Literature.”
  • Maxim Gorky, “World Literature.”
  • Jorge Luis Borges, “The Argentine Writer and the Tradition.”

Session 8: Conclusions and Perspectives

  • B. Venkat Mani, “Introduction” to Recoding World Literature.


B. Venkat Mani, "Exiles, Migrants, and Refugees: Borderlines of World Literatures and Global Histories" 

We are living, once again, in times of forced migration and refuge. In the 1990s, the number of refugees from the former Yugloslavia was highest since the Second World War. For 2019, the United Nations’ High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates 70.8 million forcibly displaced people around the world, highest since the recorded data available since the two World Wars. The proliferation of refugees and stateless people in the world has coincided with the resurgence of exclusive nationalism, and divisive rhetoric centered on securing and insulating borders. The widespread rhetoric of walls and barbed wires on national borders are manifestations of a much longer history of frontier politics, whose roots can be traced back to European colonialism and the ideological geo-political divisions in the wake of the Cold War. In the current times, the rise of majoritarian supremacies, resurgence of populism and nationalism, as well as slow, incessant pressures on natural resources and the current climate crisis are major causes of forced migrations.

From the current vantage point, in this seminar we will engage with a range of texts and historical contexts in the twentieth and early-twenty-first centuries that led to the creation of exiles, migrants, and refugees. Central to the seminar is migration as a comparative critical framework. What do historical moments of forced migration and refuge impact our understanding of national and world literatures? How does an engagement with exilic and refugee figures broaden and deepen our comprehension of world literature? How does reading history and literature together enrich our understanding of aesthetic and political representations? These questions will serve as catalysts for our seminar. The aim of the seminar is threefold. First, by engaging with conceptual histories of the terms “exiles,” “migrants,” and “refugees,” we will develop a differentiated understanding of “willful” and “forced” migrations. Second, by refracting European examples with those from the non-Euro-American world, we will try to cultivate a global framework of literary and historical comparison. And third, by locating narratives of exiles, migrants, and refugees at the intersection of “world literature” and “global history”—two terms that have gained traction in the twenty-first century scholarship—we will foster a wider and deeper understanding of fault lines of race, ethnicity, sexuality, language, and religion.

Readings for the seminar include texts by thinkers such as Hannah Arendt, Edward Said, and Hayden White; historians such as Sebastian Conrad, Peter Gatrell, Ranajit Guha, Ayesha Jalal, and Mark Mazower; world literature scholars such as David Damrosch, Debjani Ganguly, Lital Levy, Aamir Mufti; and short prose by literary authors such as Ismail Kadare, Sayed Kashua, Saadat Hasan Manto, Viet Thanh Ngyuen and Atiq Rahimi. By reading literature and history together, we will explore how authors and artists engage with historical events, and subvert, resist, or challenge dominant official narratives by providing alternative, “unauthorized” accounts.

B. Venkat Mani is Professor of German, and Director of the Center Manifor South Asia at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research and teaching focus on 19th to 21st Century German literature and culture, literatures of migration, book and digital cultural histories, and world literature. He is the author of Cosmopolitical Claims: Turkish-German Literatures from Nadolny to Pamuk (University of Iowa Press, 2007), and Recoding World Literature: Libraries, Print Culture, and Germany’s Pact with Books (Fordham University Press, 2017), which won the German Studies Association’s DAAD Book Prize (2018) and the Modern Language Association’s Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize (2018) for outstanding scholarship in German Studies. His recent work has appeared in Edition Text+Kritik, Journal of World Literature, Gegenwartsliteratur, German Quarterly, PMLA, among others. He has co-edited special issues of Modern Language Quarterly, TRANSIT, and Monatshefte, and is associate editor of the Wiley-Blackwell Companion to World Literature (forthcoming). He is working on a new book project, Addresses of our Last Homes: Global Archives of Refugees. Recent fellowships and grants include Alexander von Humboldt Senior Research Fellowship, Mellon Foundation’s Sawyer Seminar Grant on his project “Bibliomigrancy,” a visiting fellowship at the Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung Berlin, and a Title VI National Resource Center Grant for Center for South Asia from the US Department of Education. He was a faculty member of the Institute for World Literature 2019 (Harvard University) and Forum Transregionale Studien’s 2019 seminar on “World Literatures from Elsewhere” (ZfL Berlin).

Session 1: Exiles, Migrants, and Refugees: Conceptual Histories

  • Arendt, Hannah. “We Refugees.” The Jewish Writings.
  • Said, Edward W. “Reflections on Exile.” Reflections on Exile and Other Essays.
  • Guha, Ranajit. “The Migrant’s Time.” Postcolonial Studies.
  • Nguyen, “On Being a Refugee, An American—and a Human Being.” In The Refugees.

Session 2: World Literature, Global History: Critical Approaches

  • Mani, B. Venkat. “Introduction: Recoding World Literature.” Recoding World Literature: Libraries, Print Culture, and Germany’s Pact with Books.
  • Conrad, Sebastian. “Introduction” to What Is Global History?.
  • Mazlish, Bruce. “Comparing Global History to World History.” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History.
  • Damrosch, David. “Toward a History of World Literature.”

Session 3: Migration, Forced Migration, and Refugee Studies: Critical Approaches

  • Chimni, B. S. “The Birth of a ‘Discipline’: From Refugee to Forced Migration Studies.”
  • Gatrell, Peter. “Refugees--What’s Wrong with History?”
  • Nguyen, Vinh. “Refugeetude: When Does a Refugee Stop Being a Refugee?”

Session 4: Walls, Borders, Frontiers: Critical Approaches

  • Friedman, Susan Stanford. “Migrations, Diasporas, and Borders.” Introduction to Scholarship in Modern Languages and Literatures.
  • Nail, Thomas. “Border Kinopower.” In Theory of the Border.
  • Marshall, Tim. “Introduction” to Age of Walls: How Barriers Between Nations Are Changing Our World.
  • Anzaldúa, Gloria E. “The Homeland, Aztlán.” Borderlands: The New Mestiza = La Frontera.

Session 5: The Frenzies of Partition: India-Pakistan

  • Butalia, Urvashi. “Return” and “Beginnings.” In The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India.
  • Gatrell, Peter. “Midnight’s Refugees?.” In The Making of the Modern Refugee.

Session 6: Multidirectional Memories of the Holocaust

  • Desai, Anita. Baumgartner’s Bombay.
  • Seghers, Anna. Transit.
  • Optional: Rothberg, Michael. “Introduction” to Multidirectional Memory.

Session 7: Dust and Debris of the Berlin Wall: The Balkans

  • Kadare, Ismail. Three Elegies for Kosovo.
  • Özdamar, Emine Sevgi. On the Train.
  • Optional: Gatrell, Peter. “Some Kind of Freedom.” The Making of the Modern Refugee.

Session 8: From the Cold War to the War on Terror: Afghanistan and Iraq

  • Rahimi, Atiq. Earth and Ashes.
  • Blasim, Hassan. “The Nightmares of Carlos Feuntes.” InThe Madman of Freedom Square.
  • Optional: Kermani, Navid. Upheaval: The Refugee Trek Through Europe.


Galin Tihanov, "Exilic Writing and the Making of World Literature"

This course is about the centrality of exile and exilic writing in the making of world literature. Not only is writing about exile a specific mode of producing a particular version of the world; it is also a way of thinking about movement, mediations, transfers, and boundaries. Crucially, exile is one of the foundational discourses of modernity that interrogates memory, identity, and language. Today’s notion of world literature is inseparable from a transnational and cosmopolitan perspective, which is intimately – and in a characteristically contradictory manner –linked to exilic experiences and the practice of exilic writing. In this course, we will analyse artefacts (literature, but also some paintings, two texts which fall in the genre of “philosophy of history”, a play, and a film) by European, Indian, Japanese, and American authors in order to begin to think about how exile and exilic writing have been inscribed in the very notion of world literature with which we work today.

Galin Tihanov is the George Steiner Professor of Comparative Literature at Queen Mary, University of  GalinLondon. He has published widely on German, Russian, and East-European cultural and intellectual history. His most recent research has been on cosmopolitanism, exile, and transnationalism. Amongst his recent authored and edited books are Narrativas do Exílio: Cosmopolitismo além da Imaginação Liberal (2013) and Enlightenment Cosmopolitanism(2011, ed. with David Adams). Tihanov is winner, with Evgeny Dobrenko, of the Efim Etkind Prize for Best Book on Russian Culture (2012), awarded for their co-edited A History of Russian Literary Theory and Criticism: The Soviet Age and Beyond(2011). He is Honorary President of the ICLA Committee on Literary Theory, member of Academia Europaea, and Honorary Scientific Advisor to the Institute of Foreign Literatures at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Tihanov has held visiting appointments at Yale University, St. Gallen University, the University of Sao Paulo, and Peking University. 

Session 1: Exotopy and Inbetweenness

  • Verse selections from the Bible (Psalm 137, “By the rivers of Babylon…”); Ovid, “Tristia” and “Ex Ponto”; and Agha Shahid Ali, “When on Route 80 in Ohio”, in Away: The Indian Writer as an Expatriate, ed. A. Kumar, New York: Routledge, 2004.
  • Edward Said, Reflections on Exile and Other Essays, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000, Ch. 17, “Reflections on Exile” (1984).
  • Hannah Arendt, “We Refugees”, in H. Arendt, The Jew as Pariah, New York: Grove, 1978.
  • Giorgio Agamben. "We Refugees", Symposium, 1995, No. 49 (2).
  • Paulo BartoloniOn the Cultures of Exile, Translation, and Writing. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue UP, 2008.

Session 2: Memory and the Languages of Exile

  • Viewing of selected paintings by Marc Chagall
  • Marc Chagall, My Life, Oxford: Oxford UP, 1989.
  • Benjamin Harshav, Marc Chagall and the Lost Jewish World, New York: Rizzoli, 2006.
  • Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin, Lonodn: Heinemann, 1957, Ch. 1.
  • Bryan Boyd, Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years, London: Vintage, 1993.

Session 3: Exilic Cosmopolitanism

  • Eugene Ionesco, The Bald Prima Dona, in: Ionesco, Plays, Vol. 1, trans. Donald Watson, London: Calder, 1958.
  • Eugene Ionesco, Notes and Counter-Notes, trans. Donald Watson, London: Calder, 1964.
  • David Damrosch, “Auerbach in Exile”, Comparative Literature, 1995, 47, No. 2. 
  • Galin Tihanov, “Why Did Modern Literary Theory Originate in Central and Eastern Europe? (And Why Is It Now Dead?)”, Common Knowledge, 2004, Vol. 10, No. 1.

Session 4Exilic Anti-Cosmopolitanism

  • Nikolai Trubetskoi, “Europe and Mankind”, in Nikolai Trubetzkoy, The Legacy of Genghis Khan, Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Publications, 1991.
  • Petr Savitskii, “A Turn to the East”, in Exodus to the East. Forebodings and Events: An Affirmation of the Eurasians, Idyllwild, CA: Charles Schlacks, 1996 [originally published in Russian, 1921].
  • N. Riasanovsky, “The Emergence of Eurasianism”, in Exodus to the East. Forebodings and Events: An Affirmation of the Eurasians, Idyllwild, CA: Charles Schlacks, 1996.

Session 5: The Affective Economy of Exile

  • Krzysztof Kieslowski, Three Colours: White (1994).
  • Emma Wilson, Memory and Survival: The French Cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski, Oxford: Legenda, 2000.
  • Julia Kristeva, Strangers to Ourselves, New York: Harvester & Wheatsheaf, 1991.

Session 6: De-Romanticizing Exile

  • Mori Ogai, “The Boat on the River Takase”, in The Historical Literature of Mori Ogai, ed. R. Bowring et al., Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1977, Vol. 1 (The Incident at Sakai, and Other Stories).
  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, trans. Ralph Parker, London: Penguin, 1963.
  • Galin Tihanov, “Narratives of Exile: Cosmopolitanism Beyond the Liberal Imagination”, in Whose Cosmopolitanism? Critical Perspectives, Relationalities and Discontents, ed. N. Glick Schiller and A. Irving, New York and Oxford: Berghahn, 2015.

Session 7: Homecomers and Boomerangs

  • Milan Kundera, Ignorance, trans. Linda Asher, London: Faber & Faber, 2002.
  • V. S. Naipaul, A Bend in the River, London: Penguin, 1979.
  • Fiona Doloughan, “The myth of the great return: memory, longing and forgetting in Milan Kundera's Ignorance”, in: Creativity in Exile, ed. Michael Hanne, Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2004.

Session 8: Reflective Epilogue

In this session, we build upon our discussions of the texts in Weeks 1-7 to revisit the centrality of exile in the making of world literature as a concept and practice. Questions of language, memory, identity, transnationalism and cosmopolitanism – and how they relate to one another – are once again in the spotlight, this time with the purpose of drawing some tentative conclusions while engendering a productive uncertainty about the epistemological status of these notions.


    Dubravka Ugrešić, "The Elusive Substance of Archives"

    I am going to explore the notion of the archive and the contemporary phenomenon of  archivisation, „archivomania“—the  obsession with archiving—and how this is reflected in literature, specific literary genres (from memoir to auto-fiction), film, art and various cultural projects. Archivomania, supported by numerous digital devices and their seductiveness, marks our contemporary Zeitgeist. Relying on examples from East European Literature and Art, I'll be linking the epochs of Russian avant-garde culture (novels by Konstantin Vaginov) to the culture of soc-art (Ilya Kabakov, Lev Rubinstein, etc.). I will also explore a similar cultural obsession in Yugoslav (Danilo Kiš) and post-Yugoslav literature (my own novels and projects). While teaching two semester at the UvA, the University of Amsterdam, in 1996-97, I initiated a project for the archiving of memories about former Yugoslav everyday life and popular culture. The experience of working on this project with my students helped me formulate some of my thoughts on the theme. As far as a supporting theory of the archive, I will use the unavoidable authorities such as Jacques Derrida and Walter Benjamin and current thinkers. I will also try to show and articulate examples of filmmakers (Werner Herzog) and artists (Christian Boltanski), whose work is connected to the notion of the archive.

    Over the pastDubravka Ugresic 2021 three decades, Dubravka Ugrešić has established herself as one of Europe’s most distinctive novelists and essayists. From her early postmodernist excursions, to her elegiac reckonings in fiction and the essay with the disintegration of her Yugoslav homeland and the fall of the Berlin Wall, through to her more recent writings on popular and literary culture, Ugrešić's work is marked by a rare combination of irony, polemic, and compassion.

    Following degrees in Comparative and Russian Literature, Ugrešić worked for many years at the University of Zagreb’s Institute for Theory of Literature, successfully pursuing parallel careers as both a writer and as a scholar. In 1991, when war broke out in the former Yugoslavia, Ugrešić took a firm anti-war stance, critically dissecting retrograde Croatian and Serbian nationalism, the stupidity and criminality of war, and in the process became a target for nationalist journalists, politicians and fellow writers. Subjected to prolonged public ostracism and persistent media harassment, she left Croatia in 1993.

    In an exile that has in time become emigration, her books have been translated into over twenty languages. She has taught at a number of American and European universities, including Harvard, UCLA, Columbia and the Free University of Berlin. She is the winner of several major literary prizes (Austrian State Prize for European Literature 1998; finalist of Man Booker International Prize 2009; Jean Améry Essay Prize, awarded for her essayistic work as a whole, 2012; Vilenica Prize 2016; while Karaoke Culture was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism 2011. She is the winner of the 2016 Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

    Ugresic lives in Amsterdam.

    Session 1: Archive Fever: Coincidences, Inspirations, Dust

    • Aleida Assmann. “Part Three: Storage”. In: Cultural Memory and Western Civilization, Cambridge University Press 2011.
    • Dubravka Ugresic, “The Elusive Substance of Archive”. In: Karaoke Culture, Open Letter 2011.

    Session 2: Archive stories: literary narrative/scholarly narrative

    • Archive Stories: Helena Pohlandt - McCormick, “In Good Hands”. In: Facts, Fictions, and the Writing of History. Ed. Antoinette Burton. Duke University Press, 2005.
    • Danilo Kiš. “The Encyclopedia of Death”. In: Encyclopedia of Death, Northwestern University Press, 1997.

    Session 3: Archives of Everyday life: Konstantin Vaginov and Ilya Kabakov

    • Svetlana Boym: “From Cured Soldiers to Incurable Romantics: Nostalgia and Progress”;  “Kabakov’s Toillet”. In: The Future of Nostalgia, Basic Books 2001.

    Session 4: Dust: Archive as funeral practice

    • Carolyn Steedman: “Something she called a fever: Michelet, Derrida and dust”. In:  Dust, Manchester University Press 2001.
    • Dubravka Ugresic. “The Little Guys and ‘Gypsy Fortune’”. In The Age of Skin, Open Letter, 2020.

    Session 5: The disintegration of Yugoslavia and Archive

    • Dubravka Ugresic. The Ministry of Pain. New York: Ecco Press, 2016.

    Session 6: The archivization of passions

    • Bohumil Hrabal. Too Loud a Solitude. Andre Deutsch 1991, GB.
    • Orhan Pamuk. The Museum of Innocence. New York: Vintage International, 2010.
    • The Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb (https://brokenships.com)

    Session 7: Ethics of Archive

    • Valeria Luiselli. Lost Children Archive: A Novel. New York: Vintage, 2020.

    Session 8: Digital time: self-archivization, bizarre practices, fabrication of life, life as fabrication

    • Swallow by Carlo Mirabella-Davis (film, 2019)
    • Family Romance, LLC by Werner Herzog (film, 2019)