Intercultural Literary Practices

Convenors: Dr Jane Hiddleston (MML) and Dr Mohamed-Salah Omri (Oriental Studies), with Prof Elleke Boehmer (English) and Dr Hélène Neveu-Kringelbach (African Studies)

This project explored how intercultural literature in a range of languages reflects on literary activity itself, its ability to engage with political antagonisms, history and language, and its manner of addressing a broader readership.

Building on the lively debates around the status of literature in postcolonial contexts, the project investigated both the potentially transformatory effects of intercultural literature, and also, importantly, its limitations. These issues have been thrown into sharp relief in recent texts emerging from the interaction between Europe and the Arab world, so the project began with a focus on these areas before broadening to incorporate other cultural contexts. Our seminars addressed questions such as: What is the role of literature in addressing tensions between cultures? How do writers situate their work in relation to contemporary political events and debates? How do literary works themselves theorise their relationship with local and global history and present struggles? How do texts reflect on the process of translation in their depiction of a bilingual or multilingual heritage? The seminars therefore sought to elucidate the notion of the literary per se and to explore the significance of certain forms of aesthetics in negotiating relations between different cultures. The project’s first meeting took place in HT 2014.