Reading the World: Challenging Canon Formations






Co-hosts: Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Studies and the Centre For Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies, School for Oriental and African Studies

“There is nothing mysterious or natural about authority. It is formed, irradiated, disseminated… it has status, it establishes canons of taste and value; it is virtually indistinguishable from certain ideas it dignifies as true, and from traditions… and judgments it forms, transmits, reproduces. Above all, authority can, indeed must, be analyzed.”
-Edward W. Said


Literature can no longer be defined by one agreed upon, hegemonic literary canon. Newly generated narratives reflect continually shifting local, national and global identities. Twenty-first century globalized world literature raises questions concerning what and how we read and which literary, historical and aesthetic frameworks are used to judge artistic work. Fundamental issues of visibility, linguistic differences and literary dissemination arise around questions of who is published, how literature is disseminated (or not) and who gets to decide what is worthy of serious consideration.The proliferation of festivals, prizes and world literature courses suggest that a body of agreed upon first-class, canonical literature exists. But in reality, processes of ongoing canon formation, exclusion, gate-keeping, implicit aesthetic assumptions and other ‘bottlenecks’ operate locally and transnationally to silence vital voices.


Marina Warner, novelist, short story writer, cultural historian, critic, mythographer and chair of the judges for the 2015 Man Booker International Prize will keynote the conference. Known for her many non-fiction works relating to feminism and to myth, she is a contributing editor at the London Review of Books. Her books include Alone of All Her Sex, Monuments and Maidens and Stranger Magic, for which she won the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.  Her talk will reflect her profound engagement with literary shifts in our own complex, troubled time.


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