2012 Istanbul

For 2012, we expanded the program to its intended long-term size of a hundred participants. Our participants came to Istanbul from 24 countries, almost twice as many as our inaugural session in Beijing. Our distinguished program faculty offered five seminars in each half of the session, bringing together a wide range of theoretical and literary texts that spanned conceptual and practical issues of world literature:

“Westernization in Turkish and Russian Fiction”
(Murat Belge, Bilgi)

“Grounds for Comparison”
(David Damrosch, Harvard)

“A Thousand and One Thousand and One Nights”
(Paulo Horta, NYU Abu Dhabi).

“When Literature Meets the World”
(Djelal Kadir, Penn State)

“Orientalism and World Literature”
(Aamir Mufti, UCLA)

“Cultural Translations and Dramatic Transcreations”
(Ileana Orlich, Arizona State)

“Fictions of Metamorphosis: Classical, Modern, Postmodern”
(Jale Parla, Bilgi)

“Literature of Capitalism”
(Martin Puchner, Harvard)

“Comparative Cosmopolitanisms”
(Bruce Robbins, Columbia)

Two plenary lectures, by Djelal Kadir and by Kader Konuk (University of Michigan), introduced our participants to key issues in the history of our discipline, from its literary origins (“Theory in World Literature”) its 20th century practice (“East-West Mimesis: Auerbach in Turkey”). In addition, we had panels focused on professional issues of pedagogy, syllabus design, and the job market, enabling people to rethink their strategies for teaching and designing world literature courses and programs and to reshape their current work and future projects for the world market.

Istanbul proved to be a truly worldly experience for our participants, who had the occasion to meet with the Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk. His guest lecture/discussion with David Damrosch on the topic “The World in the Novel, the Novel in the World” followed a private tour for our group of the unique Museum of Innocence in downtown Istanbul, the physical embodiment of Pamuk’s recent novel, created by the author himself. Among other memorable outings, our host at Bilgi University, Murat Belge, gave two highly personal guided tours, one of the Bosphorus and one of little-known Istanbul sites: old Greek and Armenian churches tucked away on side streets; the site of Istanbul’s “first existentialist café.” Exceptional hospitality by Murat Belge and his colleague Jale Parla and unstinting efforts by our program assistants Adile Aslan, Emily Cersonsky Hayman, and Zhang Yanping created a welcoming and collegial atmosphere to build community among our program faculty and participants.

The experience of the session has been well summed up by our seminar leader Martin Puchner in an article on “Teaching World Literature in Istanbul”.