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Slavic Colloquium: Galin Tihanov

Wed November 8th 2023, 4:30 - 6:00pm
Event Sponsor
CREEES Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies
Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures
Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages
Program in Modern Thought and Literature
Building 260, Pigott Hall
450 Jane Stanford Way, Building 260, Stanford, CA 94305
Rm 216

Please join the next Slavic Colloquium talk with Galin Tihanov (Queen Mary University of London).

"World Literature in the Soviet Union: Infrastructure and Ideological Horizons"

Abstract: This lecture pursues a somewhat different direction from the current discussions about world literature; it seeks to ‘multiply’ world literature by demonstrating that there is no world literature per se, but rather different world literatures, because different communities produce different constructs that they label as world literature at different times. Here we are dealing with answers to the questions of what world literature is and how to write its history—answers that come from Soviet Russia over a period of some seventy years. My emphasis is on the lessons one could learn from the Soviet attention to world literature. Foremost amongst these is the compelling determination of Soviet intellectuals to conceive of world literature in a systematically non-Occidentocentric manner. In this respect, the Soviets were pioneering an approach to world literature that foreshadows our current concerns, as I will try to demonstrate. But there is also another lesson that emerges from the Soviet preoccupation with world literature: conversations about world literature do not proceed in a vacuum, but constantly interact with, impact upon, and are impacted by the conversations that societies have about national literatures and literary theory. I begin by briefly adumbrating four historically attestable meanings of ‘world literature’ that are still at work within the Soviet debates. I then identify three different cultural and ideological horizons (or frameworks) of thinking about world literature in the Soviet Union and proceed to locate their common ground, that which bound them together through decades of crises and transformations.

Bio: Galin Tihanov is the George Steiner Professor of Comparative Literature at Queen Mary University of London. He has held visiting professorships at universities in Europe, North and South America, and Asia. He is the author of six books, including The Birth and Death of Literary Theory: Regimes of Relevance in Russia and Beyond (Stanford UP, 2019) which won the 2020 AATSEEL Prize for “best book in literary studies.” Tihanov has been elected to the British Academy (2021) and to Academia Europaea (2012); he serves on the Executive Board of the Institute for World Literature at Harvard University and as Honorary Scientific Advisor to the Institute of Foreign Literatures, CASS, Beijing. His current work is on world literature, cosmopolitanism, and exile. 

Hosted by the Department of Slavic Literatures and Languages. Co-sponsored by Modern Thought and Literature and CREEES Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies.