Turn-of-the Century European Literary and Cultural History: A New Approach

The Berlin workshop was the first meeting of a core group of scholars interested in the challenges of writing literary and cultural histories of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The day was divided into two sessions that focused on approaches and case studies respectively. Participants debated several approaches to cross-border literary studies, including comparative literature, imagology, cultural exchange, and transnational history/histoire croisée. We then discussed the specific case studies of Yvan Goll, Mina Loy and Oscar Wilde -“ authors whose works resist periodisation as well as straightforward national and genre classification.


Internationalist and Interartistic Writing Around 1900

The Oxford workshop set out to explore the themes of internationalism, cosmopolitanism and inter-artistic practice in English and European literature in the period that could be termed the long fin de siècle (roughly 1880-1920). It featured a series of work-in-progress papers and informal presentations that discussed how internationalist and interartistic perspectives enable us to question and revise traditional, stable notions of 'national' literature. The workshop was divided into two sessions that focused, respectively, on the question of drama / performance and on the theme of identity.



In Spring 2012, the group met for a four-day workshop in the Gut Siggen Seminar Centre, thanks to a successful application for support from the Alfred Toepfer Foundation. The workshop featured a mixture of seminars, case studies and brainstorming sessions. In advance of the meeting, participants were asked to read a number of articles and book chapters outlining specific methodological and theoretical questions in comparative and trans-national studies. These were then discussed by means of presentations and responses. There was a discussion session devoted to post-colonial studies. Members who had not attended previous workshops presented case studies relevant to their current research. The aim of this longer workshop was to consolidate the identity of the group and to create a space where participants would feel free to explore theories of cultural/literary exchange and cultural mediation away from the standard format of academic conferences.


Writing 1900 Objects

In this follow-up meeting from the Siggen workshop each participant presented on one object that exemplifies a narrative or mode of transition that took place around the year 1900. The discussion focused on how to create a productive dialogue between the study of material culture / object theory and literary studies. Case studies included barbed wire, jewellery, memorial sculpture, photographs, postcards, round mirrors, the telephone, the trilby hat and the vacuum cleaner.


Literary Spaces and Communities I

In October 2013, the group met at the Centre for British Studies for a seminar funded by the Humboldt University's Kosmos programme. Eight papers were presented by members of the network that explored how literature creates communities of authors and readers rooted in specific places (such as Dieppe, Florence, Rome, Venice, Bruges, London, Copenhagen and Paris), yet which transcend linguistic and national borders. The meeting was followed by a tour of literary sights associated with Weimar Berlin, as seen particularly through the works of Isherwood.


Literary Spaces and Communities II

The group reconvened in Oxford in June 2014 for a day-long meeting funded by the Leverhulme Trust and during which participants followed up questions raised at the Berlin 2013 meeting. The day included a number of new papers, as well as discussions of pre-circulated papers from the previous meeting, and a seminar discussion of a number of theoretical texts addressing the question of how to write transnational literary history and the history of cosmopolitanism. This was the sixth meeting of the network - and important milepost in its evolution that will be marked by the publication of a special themed issue of Forum for Modern Language Studies.