Congolese Literature as World, or rather Planetary, Literature?

Key information

3:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Russell Square: College Buildings

About this event


Speaker: Prof Silvia Riva (University of Milan)


The Congo is considered as one of the most internationalized states of Africa (historically and economically speaking) since Belgian King Leopold’s Free State (1885-1908). That is why this case is particularly interesting (and representative of some other Sub-Saharan countries) because it shows that “the modern world-system” (I. Wallerstein) and yesterday’s colonial expansion which determined the destiny of the planet at a global scale never erased the local linguistic (and cultural) dimension through which people self-determine their diversity. In other words, the idea that African cultural plurality has been at stake in colonial era has to be reduced, because negotiations and exchanges in texts and languages (cosmopolitan and vernacular, written and oral) have always been frequent during and after the colonization, mostly in urban areas. This paper aims to question through some multilingual examples the co-construction of linguistic-pluralism in Africa and the necessity of a transdisciplinary approach to understand the common life of (Congolese) languages and cosmopolitan ones when we lean on “post-scriptural oral” concept (B. Jewsiewicki). Finally, we will try to show that the World Literature models mainly based on Pierre Bourdieu’s notion of negotiation between centre and peripheral areas has to be reduced nowadays in favour of Planetary literature, that is a new way of envisaging interconnection between languages of literatures of the world.


Silvia Riva is professor of French and Francophone literatures at the University of Milan. Research topics: African literature (English, French). Francophone literature (island literatures). Geocritical and ecopoetic approaches to literature. She has published several essays and articles on Congolese literature, including Nouvelle Histoire de la littérature du Congo-Kinshasa (Paris, L’Harmattan, 2006). She is also a specialist in World Literature. In June 2019 she organized at the University of Milan the international congress Global Congo: aesthetics and poetics of a World Literature .

This event is part of the ' Multilingual locals, significant geographies: a new approach to world literature ' project. This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 670876)

Key words: Africa, Congo, literature, national identity, canonicity, genres, poetics, disciplines, World Literature, Planetary Literature.