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Symposium: Literature and Institutions

When Jun 21, 2017
from 10:00 to 05:30
Where Phil I, GCSC, R.001
Contact Name
Contact Phone +49 641 / 99-30 056
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Literature is inevitably embedded in an institutional context – one may even argue that, in a sense, literature only exists within and because of institutions.  Already in the process of its production, writers of literature are aware of institutional reception and influence, and react to this by obeying or undermining the rules through writing strategies, argument and style. What we define and read as “literature” in a given culture at a given moment in time is indeed determined by a number of institutional factors. These may be economic and political regimes that steer circulation and control access, or may appear as the cultural institutions of criticism that distinguish certain texts as literary (rather than non-literary) in the first place, and develop standards for particularly “good” literature.

This two-day symposium investigates the relationship between literature and institutions across cultures and centuries. The first day’s keynote lecture by Prof. Mark McGurl (Stanford University), who is one of the leading researchers on literature and institutions today, also forms part of the GCSC keynote lecture series.

The first day traces the Western institutional contexts of literature diachronically. From early modern court drama and the transformation of drama with the rise of printing, to the role of literature in the understanding of nineteenth-century statehood and the public sphere, to literature as a sphere of criticism in the twentieth century, and culminating in the discussion of digital regimes of distribution in the twenty-first century, the day offers a series of dialogic lectures that comparatively address the role of institutions in different cultural contexts.

The second day features a workshop offered by Mark McGurl to registered participants of the symposium, and continues with two public panels zooming in on central issues pertaining to the relation of literature and institutions. The panels are entitled “Organizing Principles: Forms, Context, Canons” and “Literature and Media Change.” The symposium concludes with a panel discussion.

The event is organized by the IPP in cooperation with the GCSC.


The Call for Papers for the interdisciplinary panels of the second day is open until 28 February 2017.


To register for the workshop with Prof. Mark McGurl, please get in touch with the organizers of the symposium ().


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