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Call for Papers: Translating the Literatures of Small European Nations

29 October 2014

International Conference, University of Bristol, September 8th-10th 2015

Conference Organisers: Dr Rajendra Chitnis (Bristol), Dr Rhian Atkin (Cardiff), Professor Zoran Milutinovic (SSEES, University College London) and Dr Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen (University College London)

The literatures of smaller European nations, written in less well-known languages or from less familiar traditions, all depend on linguistic and cultural translation to be heard by the wider world. Researchers in individual national literatures, comparative literature or translation studies, however, generally work in parallel and even in competition, divided along linguistic, geographical and disciplinary lines, and are unused to examining the precise nature and implications of this shared situation. As a result, some may view the situation of a given national literature too narrowly, while others, in imagining a supranational organisation of literature, fail to consider how the literatures of Europe's smaller nations might become part of it.

The aim of this conference is to bring these groups together to explore comparatively the mechanisms through which the literatures of small European nations endeavour to reach the cultural mainstream, and to examine the extent to which these literatures may constitute a specific ‘literary system’ in their relationship with that mainstream. We invite papers that address the following questions:

  1. How are the literatures of small European nations translated across borders? Who are the main actors in the translation of the literature of small nations? How do they perceive their role? What role do national and international institutions, funds and prizes play?
  2. What are the opportunities for and barriers to wider European dissemination through translation of the literatures of smaller nations or peripheral regions?
  3. How valid is the ‘centre and periphery’ model when applied to the cultural dynamics of translation in European literature? How far and in what ways do perceived ‘peripheries’ interact without recourse to the ‘centre’?
  4. How does the international reception of the literatures of small European nations influence canon formation, the writing of literary history and a nation’s perception of its literature and literary status? What is the status and experience of writers who migrate and/or ‘self-translate’?
  5. What is the role played by cultural stereotypes, defining historical episodes, dominant single figures or genres and other ‘international shorthand’? To what extent do they hinder or facilitate the translation process?

Papers may approach these questions from a variety of disciplinary and theoretical perspectives, including but not limited to literary and cultural history and theory, sociology and translation studies, and may draw on the current or historical experience of one or more national literatures.

The conference organisers also invite applications from current UK-based doctoral students who do not wish to give a full paper, but would like to attend the conference as a fully funded delegate and work with other selected postgraduates on a group presentation to be prepared during the conference and delivered on the final day. Applicants should submit a statement (c.500 words) outlining their current research and its relevance to the themes of the conference, and two academic letters of recommendation to Dr Rajendra Chitnis ( by December 5th 2014.

This conference is a core part of an AHRC-funded Translating Cultures research project, and organisers aim to meet in full the travel, accommodation and conference fee costs for all speakers chosen by the organisers. The organisers will invite selected speakers to revise their papers for inclusion in chapter form in an edited volume arising from the project.

Please send paper titles, abstracts (c.300 words) and a short CV to Dr Rajendra Chitnis ( by December 5th 2014.

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