Annual Conference Globalization and Literature

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Conference 2015: Writing (for) the Market – Narratives of Global Economy

25.06.2015 – 27.06.2015

Conference Abstract

'The market': One and Unequal

When Franco Moretti states the importance of ‘potential markets’ for global literary circulation, he underlines the profound influence that the possibilities and modes of distribution exert on the aesthetic object: “The one-and-unequal literary system is not just an external network here, it doesn’t remain outside the text: it’s embedded well into its form” (Moretti 2000, 66). Thus, literature and its market(s) have always been linked on manifold levels extending well beyond commercial networks that are merely external to the texts themselves. However, this conjunction is further complicated when literature’s impact is no longer confined to the national or even international realm but takes on a decidedly global reach.

Writing for the Market
Our conference proposes to address two main lines of inquiry that arise from this argument. The first concerns the book market as an important field on which these influences and developments come into play. Books and authors circulate, driven by institutional and political forces, in a space often identified as the ‘global market,’ a term that presupposes a simplified meaning of the space in which writing and print culture is created, negotiated, and traded. Yet this ‘global literary market’ is not only, using Bourdieu’s terminology, a field where commodities are exchanged on the basis of pre-fixed values, but a highly complicated space where different agents and institutions assess and reassess prize and value of established and emerging writers and their narratives. According to Gisèle Sapiro, to understand the commodity trade of books and authors of global reach, it is crucial to look at the structure of the book market which “results from the articulation of economic, political and cultural factors. These different logics are incarnated by various categories of agents (e. g. authors, translators, share holders, marketing managers …)” (Sapiro 2010, 425).
Keeping these institutional agents in mind, however, the challenges a globalized book market presents to writers vary according to their status: How do writers of national acclaim or authors marketed as ‘postcolonial’ or ‘marginal’ react when positioned in the global literary field? In what way does their geographical, economical or cultural placing influence their aesthetic style? Is there, as Moretti describes it, dominant interference between the core of literary production and peripheral literatures that forms the so-called global market? What kind of literature is marketed today in terms of global reach and what are the historical developments leading up to this state of affairs? These are some of the topics we would like to discuss in our first section.

Narrating the Market
Complementing the above raised questions, the conference seeks to address the representability of an unequal capitalist ‘market’ that has enormous influence not only on the lives and works of every author, but also on their texts. From the newly established trade routes of early modernity followed by the introduction of paper money and the increasing globalization of markets around 1850 to recent ‘bubbles’ and financial crises, the conference aims to trace the impact of changes within the economic system on literary style. By focusing on the (historic) discourses and practices prevailing around ‘the market,’ we are investigating the connections between literature and economy in order to address the question of how a global capitalist reality can enter into literary writings? In line with the academic research area of New Economic Criticism we acknowledge the deep connection between literary and economic signs (cf. Marc Shell, The Economy of Literature) but question the capacity of such an approach to fully explain the connection between poetics and economics. Furthermore, again following the arguments of New Economic Criticism, we propose that the unrepresentability of abstract and ‘fictional’ concepts like the stock market also applies to a global capitalist market.

The questions we would like to address in this second section include but are not limited to the following: How do literary texts represent and narrate ‘the market,’ which forces and dependencies do they identify and how do they poetologically reflect on these matters? In how far do paradigm shifts in economy and the emergence of global scopes in literature coincide, e.g. how do the expanding markets in the 19th century enable literature to write about globalization, by providing writers with a model for a singular, yet unequal world connected by networks of trade and travel? How do literary texts deal with the paradox of being (at least partly) constituted by their economic surroundings as well as participating in both narratives and interpretations of economic realities? In how far can literary texts depict ‘unrepresentable’ markets? Specifically, can the exclusion from a capitalist ‘flow’ be represented and what are the poetological strategies that hint to such exclusion?

The Market in and for Literature
Bringing together the fields of literary production and economic narratives within literature, this conference aims to examine the intricate connections between ‘the market’ as represented by literature and ‘the market’ as experienced by writers. In doing so, it becomes evident that ‘the market’ can no longer be viewed as a system external to literary texts, on the contrary: It constitutes the space in which literature consciously becomes a commodity in order to be sold. Therefore, the global book market is always at the same time part of the capitalist economic system that is represented in the texts and an economic framework that influences both writers and their writing. In line with these two main areas of inquiry, our methodological approach will combine analysis with synthesis, or, in Moretti’s terms, ‘close’ and ‘distant reading:’ We invite papers that address detailed insight into individual literary texts and their relation to the market as well as more general overviews on the book market and its global entanglements.


Works cited:

Moretti, F., 2000. 'Conjectures on World Literature.' New Left Review 1 January–February, 54–68.
Sapiro, G., 2010. 'Globalization and Cultural Diversity in the Book Market: The Case of Literary Translation in the US and in France.' Poetics 38, 419–439.
Shell, M., 1978. The Economy of Literature. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore/London.



Thursday, 25th June

13.30-14.00 | Introductory Address | Anna-Katharina Krüger, Franziska Jekel, Neele Meyer

14.00-15.30 | Panel I | Globalization or the Literature of Late Capitalism | Chair: Myriam-Naomi Walburg

  • Barrett Watten (Wayne State University Detroit): Writing the Zone: Global Logics of American Postmodernism
  • Nina Peter (Leuphana Universität Lüneburg/FU Berlin): Precarious Ontologies: Contemporary Financial Markets in Literature

15.30-16.00 | Coffee break

16.00-17.30 | Panel II | Circulating Prints and Plots | Chair: Isabel Kranz

  • Bill Bell (University of Cardiff): On Crusoe's Island: Itinerant Texts in the Empire of Print
  • Anne Enderwitz (Freie Universität Berlin): Early Modern Household Economy and the Trickster Plot

18.00 | Keynote Address Gisèle Sapiro, CNRS Paris

20.00 | Dinner at Georgenhof

Friday, 26th June

Panel III |Access to the Global Canon | Chair: Mahamat Ali Alhadji


  • Caroline Davis (Oxford Brookes University): Canonising African Writers: The International Publication of Oswald Mtshali
  • Anna-Katharina Krüger (LMU München): Slave Narratives Entering the Market – Between Self-Publishing and Political Agenda

11.30-12.00 | Coffee break


  • Rasha Chatta (SOAS London): Thematic Mints: On the Aesthetics of Migrant Literature Between Production and Circulation

12.45-15.00 | Lunch break

Panel IV | The Negotiations of Literary Value | Chair: Thomas Erthel


  • Annegret Heitmann (LMU München): On the Turntable. Scandinavian Authors and the Global Market

15.45-16.15 | Coffee Break


  • Pavithra Narayanan (WSU Vancouver): Who's Afraid of Andrew Wylie? Gatekeepers, Markets, and Knowledge Production
  • Franziska Jekel (LMU München): Marketing the Crisis. Reflections on Esthetic and Economic Value in Marlene Streeruwitz' Nachkommen. and Die Reise einer jungen Anarchistin in Griechenland.

18.00 | Dinner buffet at IBZ

20.00 | Global Playing for Everyone? Positioning Strategies on the Global Book Market
Podiumsdiskussion / Open Forum | Lyrik-Kabinett

Saturday, 27th June

Panel V | Fashioning World Authorship | Chair: Neele Meyer


  • Rebecca Braun (Lancaster University): What is a World Author? Conceptualizing Agency in the Global Literary Market
  • Thoren Opitz (LMU München): World Wide Walt: The 1856 Leaves of Grass and the Global Market

11.30-12.00 | Coffee break


  • Mariano Siskind (Harvard University): World Literature and the Globalization of Aesthetic Forms: Before and After Magical Realism

12.45 | Final Discussion and Closing Remarks | Thoren Opitz, Mahamat Ali Alhadji