The Society for Novel Studies, an international scholarly organization dedicated to one of the most important forms of literary expression, will have its biannual conference in Pittsburgh in May 2016, hosted by Pitt and co-organized by Jonathan Arac and Gayle Rogers (English).
This gathering of some 150 scholars from three or more continents will draw on faculty from a range of departments across the Dietrich School: colleagues from English, Hispanic Languages and Literature, Slavic Languages and Literature, French and Italian, and German have all agreed to organize panels and present papers. In addition, we have recruited colleagues from CMU and Duquesne for the organizing committee.
The theme of the conference is “The Novel in or against World Literature.” Our academic keynote speakers include colleagues from Penn and Yale, and a keynote lecture by novelist Tom McCarthy (whose work has been translated into at least fourteen languages) will be open to the community at large.
The conference’s theme “The Novel in or against World Literature,” speaks quite pointedly to the vitality of the humanities in the life of the university and of the diverse communities that make up the public. The novel has long been a genre through which writers and their societies have understood the fundamental modes of being human. These include city and country, at home and abroad, our own time and times past and future, male and female, old and young, rich and poor. Concretely novels range from the brilliantly insightful misadventures of Don Quixote (Spain, 17th century) to Charles Dickens’s social critiques (England 19th century), from James Joyce’s aesthetic revolutions (Ireland and Europe, 20th century) to Toni Morrison’s narratives of some of the most urgent forms of experience in American life over our whole history.
The speakers at this conference will engage all of these topics and more, with a focus on the questions raised by the term “world literature,” which one finds everywhere—college syllabi and big-box bookstores—in our current moment. They will ask what exactly “world literature” means, how it organizes the increasingly global experiences of humanity, and in what ways translation and international marketplaces are shaping novels now. They will also explore ways in which readers and writers resist and challenge the category of world literature, a category that produces fears of American hegemony, the invisibility of work in languages with few speakers, the erasure of local particularity, and the subordination of struggles by the dispossessed. The novel as form and practice has spoken on both sides of these debates, and so must its scholars.