International conference “Beyond Text: Anthropological Approaches to Literature in Europe and Middle East”

18–19 October 2019
Academic Conference Centre
Husova 4a, Praha 1

What is the role of literary imagination for social, political, and religious change? To answer this question, we need to expand our view beyond literary text, and include the practices of writing, publishing, reading, and literary socialisation. Anthropological and other social scientific study of literature is a small but emerging field that allows to understand the relationship between human subjectitivies and social processes in a way that text-based approaches alone cannot. Anthropologists, historians and scholars of literature working with fieldwork and archival methodologies had stressed the importance of non-literary objects in understanding literature, such as coffee houses, political movements and revolutionary contexts, the motivations and personal consequences of writing, the learning and teaching of techniques, the relationship of aesthetics, class, morals and gender, and exiles and migrations. Some of these topics have been studied historically but until recently, less so in the contemporary context.

The conference aims to explore the state of the art in the emerging study of literature as a social practice, and to push it forward in terms of both content and methodology. Importantly, it takes a decidedly trans-local approach, and gives special – but not exclusive – attention to literatures in and from the Middle East and Central Europe. An understanding of the role literature plays in these regions is especially important in the context of globalisation and migrations, whereby literature has proven to be an important medium to communicate experiences, hopes and fear across cultural divides.

Programme (PDF)

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