SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Call for Papers: Multilingualism and Multilingual Identities in World Literatures


Date: 3 July 2017Time: 12:00 AM


Type of Event: 0

OWRI Creative Multilingualism

Strand 5: Creativity and World Literature: Languages in Dialogue

Project Key Words and Key Concepts

Call For Papers

This project explores multilingualism’s revolutionary potential and creative force in language, literature, thought and the visual arts. ‘Multilingualism’ is understood as more than the co-existence or overlap of more than one word-based communication system in one work or one language or one culture but also as the confluence of word, image and sound on one site. ‘Creativity’ is conceived as the novel ways of thinking engendered in imaginative works emerging from engagement with more than one language. On the one hand, writers and artists creating texts and exhibits out of multiple languages are able to invent new ways of seeing the world through cultural dialogue. On the other hand, this multilingual imagination generates at the same time an ethics promoting resistance to segregation and cultural determinism. ‘Creativity’, then, relates both to the invention of unforeseen nuances in linguistic meaning, and also to modes of improved understanding through exchange.

Using the modern period (from the long nineteenth century to the twenty-first century) as the temporal framework, it examines the flowering of multilingualism inherent in a single linguistic system and one regional cultural complex, and the impact of this on linguistic, literary and cultural creativity. It posits that multilingualism is both effect and instrument of creativity. It looks into languages in dialogue at moments of cultural encounter in the modern period between East and West, or North and South, and for new ways of thinking and writing about the creative impetus that underpins any form of multilingualism and about its role in literary innovation.

Writings of this period is a treasure trove of instances of linguistic and conceptual blending (Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner) not only visible in and traceable to the translation of major works of a single genre (David Damorsch and Franco Moretti) circulated from one language into another and from a peripheral national local to a metropolitan international global (Casanova), but also to the adoption of words designating objects or ideas as well as metaphors, and quotation, paraphrasing and adaptation of small or large parts of a work, or even a system of knowledge (Haun Saussy and Terence Cave), that informed and accompanied transformations in language and literary expressions.

Research questions
  1. How might texts engage with more than one language even when they seem to be ostensibly monolingual? How do writers incorporate traces of other languages other than by introducing different vocabularies? What do these sorts of texts tells us about the process and impact of cultural interaction more broadly?
  2. What are the instances of linguistic and conceptual blending in modern literary works? How may this be analysed in such a way as to allow for the articulation of the processes through which a new form of multilingualism (that combines, e.g., European and Middle Eastern, ancient and modern, verbal and visual languages) emerges and takes shape?
  3. What happens when writers draw on more than one language within the same work? How does the mixing of languages lead to the creation of new meanings? What does this interaction show about the mechanics of cross-cultural and multilingual thinking?
  4. Can film or other visual media incorporate multiple languages, and how do these media help us to conceive the ways in which different languages can probe and expand upon one another?
  5. Can material objects, cultural artefacts, or civilizational monuments, that have become familiar, even everyday symbols as well as sites of linguistic and cultural encounters and discourses, such as the Rosetta Stone, the Gilgamesh clay tablets, the theatre, to name only three, inform literary analysis?
  6. Can word, distilled from an image of a concrete object, be seen as embodying an entire world and its conceptualization as networks of circulation not only of objects but also of ideas, concepts and worldviews?
  7. Will this enable us to embrace a comparative framework within which diverse and divergent trajectories and manifestations of multilingualism may be mapped and analysed across overlapping networks of circulation.
  8. How may the insights inform new ways of reading literary texts, and of theorising world literature within a broader framework of creative multilingualism?
  9. Is multilingualism coeval with multiculturalism?
  10. What other forms of multilingualism outside word, image and sound may be imagined and brought to bear on literary analysis?

Submit proposals of 250 to 300 words to Professor Wen-chin Ouyang ( before or by 15 September 2017.

Some financial assistance may be available to doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows.

Next International Conference:

Performing Languages

25, 26 and 27 September 2018

University of Oxford