Minor/Small Literature(s). Perspectives on World Literature from Elsewhere
Transregional Academy of the Forum Transregionale Studien and the Max Weber Stiftung – German Humanities Institutes Abroad, in cooperation with the Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung Berlin (ZfL)
Chaired by: Zaal Andronikashvili (ZfL), Susanne Frank (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), Refqa Abu-Remaileh (Freie Universität Berlin; EUME Fellow 2018/2019), B. Venkat Mani (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Michael Allan (University of Oregon), and Bodhisattva Kar (University of Cape Town)
Ever since Franz Kafka introduced the idea of minor literature (kleine Literatur) in his diary entry on December 1911 to denote »contemporary Jewish literature in Warsaw and [...] Czech literature,« the concept has revealed the relations between literature and politics, as well as the dynamics of literary development from the perspective of a perceived periphery. Nearly sixty years after Franz Kafka, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari revived the concept of kleine Literatur, which they translated as littérature mineure, to signify the revolutionary potential of every literature, not just a literature of a small nation or minority. And more recently, the French literary scholar Pascale Casanova deployed Kafka’s ideas in the context of world literature.
Since Goethe, the concept of world literature has aimed to naturalize European literary developments as a sort of normative standard. And even if these Eurocentric foundations have been criticized and questioned for more than two decades, especially from a post-colonial perspective, there has yet to be an alternate literary historiography through which to imagine world literature otherwise. The Academy aims to question common assumptions of world literature through the prism of minor/small literature(s).
Three possible interpretations of the concept of small/minor literature(s) and the notions of »smallness« and »minor« itself will be interrogated from different perspectives:
- Small/minor literature in Kafka’s sense (writing in the language of the political and cultural minority);
- Small/minor literature in Casanova’s sense (from the perspective of the literatures of small nations or small languages);
- Littérature mineure in Deleuze and Guattari’s sense (a cipher for the revolutionary potential also within the literatures in the world languages).
With the concept of minor/small literature(s), the Academy addresses literatures that are often missing from the debates on world literature. We understand minor/small literature in the broadest sense to include literatures of smaller nations; literatures of immigrants, minorities and marginalized groups or individuals; as well as literatures in languages of former or contemporary hegemonic empires or states. We will focus on the political/revolutionary potential of literature in hegemonic struggles as well as the position and ambition of small/minor literatures in the larger linguistic/regional projects, such as multinational Soviet literature, Hindi or Arabic literature in the diaspora. Our conversations will address trajectories, turning points and temporalities in forms and media of the literary field. In contrast to prevalent modes of presenting world literature in opposition to national literatures, the Academy places the plurality of languages and cultures, as well as aesthetic and artistic practices at the center of debate.
English will serve as the primary language of discussions.
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Photo: Georges Khalil