Mind the (literary) gap: conference to examine absence of non-English literature in the west

Monday 23 November 2015

Dame Marina Warner, award-winning scholar, cultural historian and chair of the 2015 Man Booker International Prize, will headline a London conference exploring why non-European writers struggle to be visible outside their own environment.

Taking place on 3 December at Senate House, ‘Reading the world: challenging the dynamics of canon formations’ is co-hosted by the School of Advanced Study’s Institute of English Studies (IES) and the SOAS-Centre for Cultural Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS), University of London. It will examine the absence of non-English literature in the western world and question why English language publishing exists primarily in London and New York. Only three percent of books published in the UK and the US are translations.

The conference will ask why books reviewed in the UK and the US, in newspapers and review journals, ignore works from non-Eurocentric cultures. Presenters will look at the politics of deciding who gets translated, and how those selected largely reflect dominant values in western discourse.

Professor Francesca Orsini, co-organiser of the event and professor of Hindi and South Asian literature at SOAS, says: ‘Even when our attitude to world literature is one of curiosity and discovery and not of indifference or inattention, there are real obstacles in finding books not written in English, even when they have been translated.’

Project director Professor Rose Levinson says: ‘Today we exist in a large, complex and multi-vocal world linked together by things such as the internet but separated by centuries of local custom, beliefs and habit. It is critical we have access to and understanding of those things that make up the human condition, wherever it is and however it is lived out.’

‘Reading the world: challenging the dynamics of canon formations’ takes place on 3 December from 9am to 6pm. Register at ies.sas.ac.uk/ReadingWorld. Follow the event on Twitter @ReadingWorld15, #ReadWorld15.

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Notes to Editors:
1. For further information, please contact: Maureen McTaggart, Media and Public Relations Officer, School of Advanced Study, University of London +44 (0)20 7862 8653  / Maureen.mctaggart@sas.ac.uk.

2. The Institute of English Studies (IES), founded in 1999, exists to facilitate advanced study and research in English studies within the University of London and in the wider academic community, national and international. Its Centre for Manuscript and Print Studies covers such fields of study as palaeography, history of printing, manuscript and print relations, history of publishing and the book trade, textual criticism and theory and the electronic book.

3. The School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London, is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and support of research in the humanities and celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2015. It was officially opened on 15 March 1995, by Sir Anthony Kenny as a federation of the University of London’s research institutes and, since then, has established itself as the UK’s national humanities hub, publicly funded to support and promote research in the humanities nationally and internationally. SAS and its member institutes offer unparalleled academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. In 2013-14, SAS: welcomed 743 research fellows and associates; held 2,081 research dissemination events; received 26.4 million visits to its digital research resources and platforms; and received 202,891 visits to its specialist libraries and collections. The School also leads the UK’s only nationwide festival of the humanities: Being Human. Find out more at www.sas.ac.uk or follow SAS on Twitter at @SASNews