The question of “engagement” (or commitment) became one of the defining elements of post-WWII literature and was, for a long period, at the center of the discussions about the relationship between aesthetics and politics in several European countries. Commonly associated with the name of Jean-Paul Sartre, who was central to French discourse on literary engagement for almost two decades, the success of the notion of “committed literature,” went well beyond the French national space.
In this panel we want to focus on the transnational circulation of the concept of “committed literature” and, more broadly, on the circulation of related notions, such as writers’ “responsibility,” as well as on any type of counter-discourse or counter-theory targeting “committed literature.” We would like to explore the different degrees of transnational propagation and dissemination of these debates both in regions that absorbed the intellectual debates taking place in France, such as Italy, West-Germany, and parts of Eastern Europe, and in the case of countries such as Switzerland, England or Norway, which remained much more impermeable to them. Why, or why not, did these theories circulate? When a reception is visible, which were the reasons and the modalities of the transfer? Who were the mediators, critics, translators, writers, publishers, who contributed to the international success of the notion of “committed literature”? How did this notion, and the debates around it, intertwine with the history of each national field? How did national differences in the role of intellectuals in society affect the debates on literary commitment? Which critical problems and discussions did the notion of engagement enter into dialogue and interacted with outside of France?
Adopting a “transfer studies” perspective to study the history of “committed literature” in the second half of the 20th century, we would like to treat this notion as an “untranslatable” (Cassin): engagement, commitment, impegno, engagierte Literatur (to name just a few) are indeed only partially overlapping concepts as they often stem from different and independent intellectual histories. This panel seeks to decentralize their understanding and to account for their diffractions in different literary and cultural contexts.
Although the focus is on the two decades following the Second World War, submissions on
subsequent periods are also welcome.
Possible topics, or areas of inquiry, may include:
- Studies on the reception and circulation of specific books or authors
- Analysis of networks of writers and critics
- Case-studies of single mediators
- Studies of the role of translation in the transfer process
- Studies of journals and magazines
Please submit a 300-word abstract by September 23rd via the ACLA portal at https://www.acla.org/seminars