CfA "Toward a Theory of Mediterranean Literature"
Call for articles for the book
Towards a Theory of Mediterranean Literature
Editors: Angela Fabris, Albert Göschl, Steffen Schneider
Mediterranean studies flourish in literary and cultural studies, but if you look at the numerous publications on the subject, it is striking that the concepts of the Mediterranean and the theories and methods used in these are very disparate. Sometimes research focuses more on representations of the Mediterranean – landscape, history, cities – and sometimes more on the origins of authors or their cultural affiliations to the Mediterranean. Sometimes it is more a matter of overarching themes that are of current interest beyond the Mediterranean – migration, questions of inter- and transculturality, post-colonialism – and sometimes very specific aspects such as the Crusades or Mediterranean cities. Of course, we appreciate this fascinating diversity of important questions and topics; nevertheless, we believe that reflections on the foundations of this diverse research are essential to give a clear profile to Mediterranean literary studies. It is our conviction that this profile should be based upon the specific conditions and characteristics of (fictional) literature.
Particularly promising to us seems to be the access via the basic – perhaps least controversial – concept of the Mediterranean as a closely interwoven network of relationships between locally limited communities. Ever since the emergence of the modern concept of the Mediterranean, the idea of the connectedness of Mediterranean cultures has been at the heart of Mediterranean studies: this idea was already expressed by Michel Chevalier when he described the Mediterranean as a “lit nuptial entre l’Orient et l’Occident”; it manifested itself in the 20th century in the conviction of Mediterranean anthropologists that there are specific characteristics of the Mediterranean peoples and their ways of acting, and it underlies the whole magnificent tableau of Fernand Braudel’s opus magnum as well as Albert Camus’ concept of the Southern thought (“La pensée du midi”). More recently, these notions of a Mediterranean unity and identity have come under criticism, which is not surprising given that they are the expression of a deeply colonial mentality. However, the critique has not led to an abandonment of the notion of connectedness, but rather to a reformulation under post-colonial and post-structural conditions: connectedness is now no longer conceived of as identity, but as a complex system of identities and differences, as a network linking entities of different size, power, history.
The most brilliant career has probably been that of a pair of terms introduced into Mediterranean research by Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell: connectivity and fragmentation. Both terms are applied not only in historical scholarship but also in other scientific approaches such as research on geography or biodiversity. The relation between the terms can be seen as complementary as well as antithetical, depending on the interpretation and the research interest. While connectivity refers to the character of the coherence of a system and its resilience as a network, fragmentation points to the factor of diversity and differentiation. The density of the Mediterranean produces a cultural area that can be described by these two factors. The Mediterranean is not a simple geographical or historical unity, but a multiplicity, a network of highly interconnected elements, each of which is different and individual.
Connectivity and fragmentation, if understood as heuristic concepts, might also be useful for Mediterranean literary studies. Indeed, they make it possible to formulate theoretically the diversity of Mediterranean literatures and their potential links within and outside the Mediterranean. As Sharon Kinoshita, among others, has pointed out, it is precisely the connectivity of literary works – their historical, geographical, intertextual references –¬ that makes it necessary for Mediterranean literary studies to transcend the boundaries of national philologies, but also the boundaries of individual languages (Kinoshita: Medieval Mediterranean Literature, PMLA 120.2, 2009, 600-608). This raises the disturbing question of whether the connectivity of Mediterranean literature can or should be limited in some way by constructing an inside and an outside of the Mediterranean. One of the most interesting questions is therefore the connection between global and Mediterranean literatures.
However, as obvious as the concepts of connectivity and fragmentation may be in historical studies, biology, etc., they cannot simply be applied to literature, because they refer to the real, material world; literary studies, on the other hand, are concerned with communicative processes, with signs and with mental reality. Although signs do refer to the world, it would reduce the potential of literary texts to understand them only as descriptions of or as statements about reality. Therefore, we encourage the contributors to ask what kind of connectivity and fragmentation literary texts produce, how they build and interrupt references (to the real world, to history, but also to other texts and discourses), how they create and deny communication, and how they take up and reflect literary and non-literary concepts of the Mediterranean.
From the editors’ point of view, the following aspects appear to be particularly central – although we are of course open to further suggestions and approaches:
1. Critical analyses of the terms used to express Mediterranean unity and diversity (‘connectivity’ and ‘fragmentation,’ but also alternative and historical concepts)
2. Language: How are Mediterranean multilingualism, language contact situations, interference between languages realized in literature?
3. Form and genre: Are there specific forms of representing Mediterranean connectivity and fragmentation depending on literary genres? What is the role of literary form/genre in the formation of a Mediterranean literature?
4. Intertextuality and intermediality: intertextual references to literary and visual texts from the Mediterranean region and from elsewhere
5. Representation: How is the Mediterranean network, its history and presence, represented/narrated?
6. Social level: the social impact of texts within the Mediterranean, networks of persons and players such as editors, translators, authors in the production, distribution, and consumption of Mediterranean literature
7. Memory: the construction of social/cultural memories, and therefore, identity and otherness in literary works
8. And finally, to what extent does Mediterranean Literature create or actively dissociate the perspective of a Mediterranean Region?
The book will be published by De Gruyter as a peer-reviewed publication (double blind and open access). If you are interested in participating we ask you to send us an abstract by June 1, 2020:
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