SOAS University of London

Mind the literary gap: conference to examine absence of non-English literature in the west

20 November 2015

SOAS Centre for Cultural Literary and Postcolonial Studies will co-host a conference exploring the absence of non-English literature in the western world. Writer and literary critic Marina Warner, chair of 2015 Man Booker International Prize, will be the keynote speaker.

Taking place on 3 December 2015 at Senate House, the conference is co-sponsored with the School of Advanced Studies-Institute of English Studies. The event will examine why non-European writers struggle to be visible outside their own immediate environment.

English language publishing exists primarily in London and New York. In the UK and US alone, only three per cent of books published are translations. The conference will ask why books reviewed in the UK and the US, in newspapers and review journals, ignore works from non-Eurocentric cultures. Presenters will look at the politics of deciding who gets translated and how those selected largely reflect dominant values in Western discourse.

Professor Francesca Orsini, co-organiser of the event, said: "Even when our attitude to world literature is one of curiosity and discovery and not of indifference or inattention, there are real obstacles in finding books not written in English, even when they have been translated."

Project Director Professor Rose Levinson said: “Today we exist in a large, complex and multi-vocal world linked together by things such as the internet but separated by centuries of local custom, beliefs and habit. It is critical we have access to and understanding of those things that make up the human condition, wherever it is and however it is lived out."

‘Reading the World: Challenging Canon Formations’ takes place on 3 December from 9am until 6pm.  Register at ies.sas.ac.uk/ReadingWorld. Follow the event on Twitter @ReadingWorld15, #ReadWorld15.