Reading the World: Challenging the Dynamics of Canon Formations

Thursday 3 December 2015, Senate House

Co-hosts: Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Studies and the Centre For Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies, School for Oriental and African Studies

"There is nothing mysterious or natural about authority. It is formed, irradiated, disseminated... it has status, it establishes canons of taste and value; it is virtually indistinguishable from certain ideas it dignifies as true, and from traditions... and judgments it forms, transmits, reproduces. Above all, authority can, indeed must, be analyzed."
-Edward W. Said

Literature can no longer be defined by one agreed upon, hegemonic literary canon. Newly generated narratives reflect continually shifting local, national and global identities. Twenty-first century globalized world literature raises questions concerning what and how we read and which literary, historical and aesthetic frameworks are used to judge artistic work. Fundamental issues of visibility, linguistic differences and literary dissemination arise around questions of who is published, how literature is disseminated (or not) and who gets to decide what is worthy of serious consideration.The proliferation of festivals, prizes and world literature courses suggest that a body of agreed upon first-class, canonical literature exists. But in reality, processes of ongoing canon formation, exclusion, gate-keeping, implicit aesthetic assumptions and other 'bottlenecks' operate locally and transnationally to silence vital voices.

Marina Warner, novelist, short story writer, cultural historian, critic, mythographer and chair of the judges for the 2015 Man Booker International Prize will keynote the conference. Known for her many non-fiction works relating to feminism and to myth, she is a contributing editor at the London Review of Books. Her books include Alone of All Her Sex, Monuments and Maidens and Stranger Magic, for which she won the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.  Her talk will reflect her profound engagement with literary shifts in our own complex, troubled time.

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Programme

9.00 Registration
9.30

Opening Speaker

  Ann Morgan: 'The Unfit World Reader'
10.30 Tea/Coffee (provided)
10.45 Panel 1: The Academy and Other Gatekeepers
 

Martin Eve (Birkbeck): 'Academic Structures of Exclusion'

Kwadwo Osei-Nyame Jnr. (SOAS): '(Mis)Reading the African World'

Anna Bogen (University of Cincinnati): 'Tracing the Unstable Course of the Post-Millenial Booker'

12.15 Lunch (own arrangements)
13.15 Panel 2: O Brave New Digital World
 

Tareq Alrabei (SOAS): 'Online Bidun (stateless) Literary Networks'

Maddalena Italia (SOAS): 'The Many Lives of a Sanskrit Love Poem'

Daniel Luther (SOAS): 'Queering Tagore: Disrupting the Canonicity of Literary Giants'

14.45 Tea/Coffee (provided)
15.00

Panel 3: Circulation and Canon Forming

 

Daniel Hahn (translator): 'Where Did We Go Wrong? Questioning the Causes of a Translation-Resistant Culture'

Atef Alshaer (Westminster): 'The Poetics and Politics of Popularity: Adonis and Darwish'

Ayan Ashour (Somali Week & Hageysa Literary Festival): 'Why Culture and Literature Matter'

17.00 Keynote Address
  Marina Warner: 'Finding Words: The Shelter of Stories in Times of War'
18.00 Wine Reception