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."


Thomas Claviez, "Conceptualizing Cosmopolitanism and World Literature: A Critical Survey"

Our seminar will focus upon a critical reading of what will be exclusively theoretical texts. Ever so often, critical concepts that are currently "fashionable" on the intellectual marketplace are appropriated and used in a rather unreflected manner – be it some philosophical giant, such as Immanuel Kant, or a "famous" researcher that dominates the contemporary scene. With the help of a few guiding questions for each of the texts read, the seminar will try to create a critical awareness about the presuppositions, the argumentation, and the implied consequences these approaches entail. This is indispensable in order to know where these texts can lead you as far as readings go, and where the blind spot and unreflected biases are that any theoretical approach entails.

As both the concepts of Cosmopolitanism and World Literature revolve around a main binary – that between sameness and difference – we will try to locate instances where these binaries appear, and how they are being designated and used for the purpose at hand. This seminar, thus, is geared toward students/scholars who want to question current – and their own – assumptions about canonized texts within the debates of Cosmopolitanism and World Literature, and to find out more about the connections between the two.

Thomas ClaviezThomas Claviez is Professor for Literary Theory and Co-Director of the Center for Global Studies (CGS) at the University of Bern, where he is responsible for the MA-program "World Literature." He is the author of Grenzfälle: Mythos – Ideologie – American Studies (1998) and Aesthetics & Ethics: Moral Imagination from Aristotle to Levinas and from Uncle Tom’s Cabin to House Made of Dawn (2008), as well as co-author, with Dietmar Wetzel, of Zur Aktualität von Jacques Rancière (2016). He is the co-editor of “Mirror Writing”: (Re-)Construc-tions of Native American Identity (2000), Theories of American Studies/Theories of American Culture (2003), Neo-Realism: Between Innovation and Continuation (2004), Aesthetic Transgressions: Modernity, Liberalism, and the Function of Literature (2006), and editor of the collection The Conditions of Hospitality: Ethics, Aesthetics and Politics at the Treshold of the Possible (Fordham UP, 2014) and The Common Growl: Towards a Poetics of Precarious Community (Fordham UP, 2017). He is currently working on a monograph with the title A Metonymic Community? Towards a Poetics of Contingency, and on two editions with the titles Critique of Authenticity (Vernon Press) and Throwing the Moral Dice: Ethics and/of Contingency (Fordham UP), both forthcoming in 2019.


Session 1: The History of Cosmopolitanism

Session 2: The Birth of Nationalism

  • Herder, Johann Gottfried. Reflections on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind. Frank E. Manuel (ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968.
  • Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. London: Verso, 2006.
  • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. “The Structural Study of Myth.” The Journal of American Folklore, 68:270 (Oct.-Dec. 1955).

Session 3: Liberal Interpretations of Cosmopolitanism: The Problem of Universalism

  • Nussbaum, Martha C. “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism.” in Martha C. Nussbaum et al., For Love of Country?Joshua Cohen (ed.). Boston: Beacon Press, 2002.
  • Butler, Judith. “Universality in Culture.” in Martha C. Nussbaum et al., For Love of Country?Joshua Cohen (ed.). Boston: Beacon Press, 2002.
  • Nussbaum, Martha C. “Reply.” in Martha C. Nussbaum et al., For Love of Country? Joshua Cohen (ed.). Boston: Beacon Press, 2002.
  • Beck, Ulrich. TheCosmopolitan Vision. Cambridge: Polity, 2006.
  • Pollock, Sheldon et al. “Cosmopolitanisms.” Public Culture, 12:3 (Fall 2000).

Session 4: Whose Cosmopolitanism? Cosmopolitanism and the Other

  • Levinas, Emmanuel. Otherwise Than Being. Pittsburgh: Duquesne UP, 1981.
  • ----. Ethics and Infinity. Pittsburgh: Duquesne UP, 1985.
  • Derrida, Jacques. On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness. London: Routledge, 2002.
  • -----. Of Hospitality. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2000.

Session 5: Alternative Communities – Alternative Stories?

  • Nancy, Jean-Luc. The Inoperative Community. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008.
  • Agamben, Giorgio. The Coming Community. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.


Session 6: Origins of World Literature: Goethe to Auerbach

  • Auerbach, Erich. “The Philology of World Literature.” in James I. Porter (ed.). Time, History, and Literature: Selected Essays of Erich Auerbach. New Jersey: PrincetonUniversity Press, 2014.
  • Pizer, John. “Goethe’s ‘World Literature’ Paradigm and Contemporary Cultural Globalization.” Comparative Literature, 52:3 (Summer 2000).
  • Cheah, Pheng. “What is a World? On World Literature as World-Making Activity.” Daedalus, 137:3 (Summer 2008).

Session 7: World Literature or the World of Literature? Hegemonic and Modernist Approaches

  • Moretti, Franco. “Conjectures on World Literature.” in Christopher Prendergast (ed.). Debating World Literature.London: Verso, 2004.
  • -----. “More Conjectures.” New Left Review, 20 (Mar-Apr 2003).
  • Berman, Jessica. Modernist Fiction, Cosmopolitanism, and the Politics of Community. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Session 8: Travellin' Books

  • Damrosch, David. What Is World Literature? Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003.
  • -----. “Script Worlds, Writing Systems, and the Formation of World Literature.” Modern Language Quarterly, 68:2 (June 2007).

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.


Lawrence Venuti, "What is Translation? Theory, Practice, Value"

Although the history of translation theory and practice has been distinguished by a range of concepts and strategies, two approaches have recurred so frequently as to be considered dominant models. The first can be called instrumental, treating translation as the reproduction or transfer of an invariant contained in or caused by the source text, whether its form, its meaning, or its effect. The second can be called hermeneutic, treating translation as the inscription of an interpretation, one among varying and even conflicting possibilities, so that the source text is seen as variable in form, meaning, and effect. This seminar will explore the continuing pertinence of these models for the study, practice, and evaluation of translation by examining the work of various theorists and commentators, including Jerome, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Eugene Nida, Gideon Toury, Antoine Berman, and Jacques Derrida. The discussions will be grounded in analyses of translations into and out of English from a variety of humanistic genres and text types, including the lyric poem, prose fiction, the screenplay, philosophy, and social history. Attention will be given to various theoretical concepts, including equivalence, norms, and ethics, as well as the fundamental relationship between theory and practice and the question of what constitutes a good translation. Throughout we will be concerned with the centrality of translation to the study of world literature.

Lawrence Venuti, professor of English at Temple University, is a translation theorist and historian as well as a translator from Italian, French, and Catalan. He is the author of The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation (1995; 2nd ed., 2008), The Scandals of Translation: Towards an Ethics of Difference (1998), Translation Changes Everything: Theory and Practice (2013), and Contra Instrumentalism: A Translation Polemic (2019). He is also the editor of Rethinking Translation: Discourse, Subjectivity, Ideology(1992), The Translation Studies Reader (2000; 3rd ed., 2012), and Teaching Translation: Programs, Courses, Pedagogies (2017). His translations include Antonia Pozzi’s Breath: Poems and Letters (2002), the anthology Italy: A Traveler’s Literary Companion (2003), Massimo Carlotto’s crime novel, The Goodbye Kiss (2006), and J. Rodolfo Wilcock’s collection of real and imaginary biographies, The Temple of Iconoclasts (2014). In 2008 he won the Robert Fagles Translation Prize for his version of Ernest Farrés’s Edward Hopper: Poems. His work has been supported by such agencies as the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institut Ramon Llull.

I.   Translation Commentary and the Theory of World Literature

Session 1: The Dominance of Instrumentalism in Translation Commentary

  • Eliot Weinberger, 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei.
  • Mark Polizzotti, “The Magnetic Fields,” 4Columns, 16 October 2020.
  • Paul Maziar, “Signs of Life in a Surreal World: A Conversation with Charlotte Mandel on Breton and Soupault’s The Magnetic Fields,” Los Angeles Review of Books, 21 February 2021.

Session 2:  Translation as World Literature

  • Pascale Casanova, “Consecration and Accumulation of Literary Capital: Translation as Unequal Exchange” (2002),
  • Gisèle Sapiro, “French Literature in the World System of Translation.”
  • Case Study: Extract from Julio Cortázar, “Blow-up,” in The End of the Game and Other Stories, trans. Paul Blackburn.

II   A Brief History of Translation Theory and Practice

Session 3: The Rise of Instrumentalism in Antiquity

  • [Zhi Qian?], From the Preface to the Sutra of Dharma Verses (c. 220-252CE), trans. Haun Saussy.
  • Dao’an, From the Preface to A Collation of the Perfection of Great Wisdom Sutra” (c. 382), trans. Haun Saussy.
  • Jerome, “Letter to Pammachius” (395CE), trans. Kathleen Davis.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche, “Translations” (1882), trans. Walter Kaufmann.
  • Case Study: Livius Andronicus, fragments from the Odissia (3rd century BCE), trans. David Camden.

Session 4: The Invariant and Cultural Assimilation

  • Nicolas Perrot d’Ablancourt, Prefaces to Tacitus (1640) and Lucian (1654), trans. L. Venuti.
  • Eugene Nida, “Principles of Correspondence.”
  • Lin Shu, Paratexts to A Record of the Black Slaves’ Cry to Heaven (1901), trans. R. David Arkush, Leo Ou-fan Lee, and Michael Gibbs Hill.
  • Case Study: Extract from Jacques Derrida, “Freud and the Scene of Writing,” trans. Alan Bass; extracts from Italo Calvino, Cosmicomics, trans. William Weaver.

Session 5: The Hermeneutic Model of Translation

  • Friedrich Schleiermacher, “On the Different Methods of Translating” (1813), trans. Susan Bernofsky.
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Translations” (1819), trans. Sharon Sloan.
  • Case Study: Charles Baudelaire, “The Cat,” trans. Joanna Richardson; extract from Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman, Annie Hall (1977), Spanish trans. by José Luis Guarner.

Session 6: Style as Interpretation in Modernist Translation

  • Ezra Pound, “Guido’s Relations.”
  • Qu Qiubai and Lu Xun, “An Exchange on Translation” (1931-1932), trans. Chloe Estep.
  • Jorge Luis Borges, “The Translators of The One Thousand and One Nights” (1935), trans. Esther Allen.
  • Case Study: Catullus 56 and 70, trans. Peter Whigham (1969), Louis and Celia Zukofsky (1969), Charles Martin (1979).

Session 7: The Translator’s Agency in Social Formations

  • Gideon Toury, “The Nature and Role of Norms in Translation.”
  • André Lefevere, “Mother Courage’s Cucumbers: Text, System and Refraction in a Theory of Literature.”
  • Case Study: Italian Publishing Statistics; Carlo Lucarelli’s review of Edward Bunker’s No Beast So Fierce (1973) and Stefano Bortolossi’s Italian translation, Come una bestia feroce (2001).

Session 8: Translation Ethics and Cultural Innovation

  • Antoine Berman, “Translation and the Trials of the Foreign” (1985), trans. L. Venuti.
  • Lawrence Venuti, “Translation, Empiricism, Ethics,” in Rosemary Feal (ed.) Profession 2010,
  • Case Study: I. U. Tarchetti, Fantastic Tales (1992) and Fosca (1994), trans. L. Venuti, and reviews from The New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review.