Transnational and Multilingual Writing in the Age of Nationalism ACLA 2019, March 4-10 Georgetown University – Washington DC

Transnational and Multilingual Writing in the Age of Nationalism  

ACLA 2019, March 4-10

Georgetown University – Washington DC


Deadline for submissions:

September 20, 2018 (submissions close early: 9 am EST).

Full name / name of organization:

American Comparative Literature Association

Contact email:

Seminar organizer: Silvia Guslandi (The University of Chicago)

Nationalism as a distinct political ideology can be said to have characterized the first half of the twentieth century, at least as regards the western hemisphere. Literary aesthetic practices, which we broadly refer to as modernist, also often embraced nation-centric and aggressively elitist worldviews. As G. L. Mosse’s classic essay “Fascism and the Intellectuals” illustrates, the rise of far-right political movements in the western inter-war period is intertwined with the cultural influence of historical avant-gardes. At the same time, however, this period was marked by an increase in geographical mobility due to migration, political exile and travel as well as by the redefinition of boundaries caused by the First World War. Many intellectuals experienced these phenomena first hand, to the point that scholars have viewed exile and displacement as defining factors of the modernist movement. The paradox is embodied by many writers and artists who were transnationals and/or aspired to a cosmopolitan ideal while at the same time constructing rigid conceptions of nationhood that often relied on a hostile representations of the “other”. The translingual or multilingual writing of many of these authors further complicates the matter and shows cultural hybridity to be a common component of apparently homogeneous constructions of nationhood.

The seminar investigates the tension between constructions of nationhood and experiences/ideals of cosmopolitanism and transnationalism in early twentieth century literature, film and visual art. Paper proposals are invited to investigate the development and aesthetic expression of these competing tendencies. In what ways do artists and writers whose identities are determined by transregional movement endorse nationalist ideologies? What are the stakes of pointing out the culturally hybrid roots of authors firmly established and in service to a mono-nationalist canon? What kinds of linguistic expressions occur as the result of migration, travel, dislocation and exile during a time of belligerent nationalist rhetoric? How can we reframe the notion of boundary in light of these considerations? How do translation and self-translation function within this framework? In what ways can we reconsider the dichotomy between cosmopolitanism and ethnocentrism? How can works of art and literature help us better understand the co-existence of imperialism, racism and ethnocentrism with migration, cosmopolitanism and the onset of global cultural connections?

While the seminar focuses on the first half of the twentieth century, authors are welcome to draw connections with other periods marked by the rise of nationalism – including the present one.  Given the possibilities for interdisciplinary discussion offered by the ACLA Conference structure of multi-day seminars, presenters are also encouraged to seek conversation with others beyond their field.

Please submit a 250-300-word abstract through the ACLA website between Thursday, August 30, at 12 noon EST and Thursday, September 20, at 9 a.m. EST and do not hesitate to contact for questions and suggestions.