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Call for papers for the 22nd issue of TRANS—: « The heritage and sharing of literature »

“Heritage or inheritance is what I can't appropriate, it is that which accrues to me and for which I am responsible, which has fallen to me as my lot, but over which I have no absolute right. I inherit something that I must also transmit: shocking or not, there is no right of property over inheritance. That's the paradox. I am always the tenant of an inheritance. Its trustee, its witness, or its relay.” (Jacques Derrida, Echographies of television, trad. Jennifer Bajorek, p. 112).

Following these remarks by Derrida, recent works and recent research (such as Lire dans la gueule du loup by Hélène Merlin-Kajman, or the 28th philosophy forum organized by the newspaper Le Monde in Le Mans on November 4th-6th 2016 entitled “Inheriting, and then what?”) have emphasized the connections between literature and transmission, what in literature can be shared, what sharing does to literature, and the role of heritage in contemporary culture. Indeed, the problematic nature of transmission requires us to consider it as incomplete, and perhaps threatened by the significant mutations our societies are currently experiencing. Questioning the role of heritage and of transmission in literature is one way to emphasize the modalities and the tools for reading we use to bring the past into the present. The heritage, transmission and sharing of literature only occur through actions that initiate them, actions that it seems important to lay out, to elucidate, in order to better understand the contemporary theoretical and ideological issues at hand. What ways of sharing literature are we currently witnessing, or are we involved in? What means of transmission of literature seem important to study today, and what are the political implications they carry at a time when some people treat literature as an “zone to defend.”

We can identify several tracks within which to orient our thinking:

The inheritance of writers

Heritage in literature is a particularly complex question that presents itself, first of all, to writers themselves. How exactly are heritages in literature constructed, not only in terms of influence within literary movements or schools, but also within the works themselves? We could for example call upon the study of stories of filiation conducted by Laurent Demanze in Encres orphelines, in order to understand how certain postures of writing are constructed, insisting on certain difficulties of transmission, and articulating two dimensions of heritage, the weight of family history and that of literary history. Heritage is sometimes inscribed in the heart of the story itself: Walter Benjamin’s “The Storyteller” can help us to understand how the narrator acts as the carrier of a story, the transmitter of a lived experience and of good advice. How has this figure of the storyteller been employed in literature challenging the possibility of transmission? What, how, and why do writers inherit, and how do these inheritances inform contemporary writing? How does the refusal to inherit come into play in the construction of writers’ postures of rupture and renewal? What role do journals, publishing houses, and manifestos play in the process of inheriting and in the sharing of literature?

Translation and heritage

Translators area also often viewed as carriers, as creators of transmission. How is the question of transmission weaved into the question of translation, and to what extent can literature be understood as the transmission of language as patrimony, as the sharing of languages? Beyond considering heritage in the backdrop of nationalist tendencies, how can we think of it in relation to the transcultural, multilingual world in which we live? Certain specific cases of translations as examples of constructions of heritage or of transmission can surely help us to better understand how we can inherit what is foreign to us, how literary inheritances are constructed, and how through them, some aspects of experience that literature can study or name are transmitted.

Literary history, theory and heritage

Literary history, with its notions of literary movements, schools and traditions, is built on the study of filiations and problematic, claimed, masked or rejected inheritances. The study of these inheritances, the discovery of connections between authors or works indeed regularly modifies our perceptions of literary history. But the emphasis put on the question of transmission seems to imply a profound change in the work of constructing literary history, as well as in the tools and methods used to do so. In the wake of “transitionality,” a concept that Hélène Merlin-Kajman borrows from psychoanalysis, what conceptual tools can allow us to consider the role of transmission in literature? For example, can we consider intertextuality as a notion that might shift our ways of understanding the process of inheriting? What connections can be drawn between reception theories and the notion of transmission?

How are relationships between heritage and patrimony constructed on different scales, and how do these relationships manage to structure the literary field, to communicate the trajectories of certain writers? “[…] understanding the way in which writers invent their own freedom—which is to say perpetuate, or alter, or reject, or add to, or deny, or forget, or betray their national literary (and linguistic) heritage makes it possible to chart the course of their work and discover its very purpose” (Pascale Casanova, The World Republic of Letters, trad. M.B. DeBoivse, p. 41).

Teaching and literary transmissions

These ideas could also lead us to investigate the particular role of teaching and its ties to literature, and to contribute to the different societal debates surrounding methods of teaching literature today. The questions of heritage, of connections between generations, and of the transmission of knowledge that happens through literature, are at the core of these debates: if we want to persist in conceiving of literature not as a finite heritage, but as a field that is very much alive, active, and mobile, we must, it seems, consider the way transmission informs its reception. Furthermore, we could also examine the way literature depicts its own transmission. How are teachers of literature represented in literature, and what ideas about the transmission of literature do these representations carry with them?

This subject is not exclusive to any period or genre. It does however require a comparative approach. Proposals (3000 characters), accompanied by a short bibliography and a short description of the author, must be sent before April 28th 2017 in .DOC or .RTF format to Selected articles must then be submitted before June 30th 2017. We remind you that the journal of comparative literature TRANS- accepts articles written in French, English and Spanish.