Course content

The course “Definitions” looks at what a text is or can be, particularly in the light of three distinct media technologies: orality, the printed word and digital media. A key concept in this module will be “entextualisation”, which indicates the ways in which verbal messages – also those that are orally transmitted – can be detached from their original context and become moveable and quotable, as well as subject to transformation.


The overarching purpose of the theme “World Literatures and the Culture of Texts” is to provide an updated and broad understanding of how culture, language, orality, media technologies, archives and circulation shape the central object of research in the humanities: the text. From that angle, the theme also approaches current world literary perspectives on translation, literary value, multilingualism and cross-cultural reading practices. A point of departure for the theme is that texts never exist as neutral, unchangeable objects, but are shaped within what Jerome McGann calls “the textual condition”. This can then be applied beyond the purview of textual criticism and media theory to include also the diverse academic, linguistic and cultural contexts in which texts materialise. The textual condition needs, in other words, to be thought of in the plural, in terms of textual cultures and reading cultures. This is of relevance to a wide range of current research areas, including comparative literary and cultural studies, translation studies, intellectual history and world literature.

Learning outcomes

In order to pass the course, students are expected to be able to demonstrate:

  • demonstrate an ability to pursue scholarly enquiry through an interdisciplinary dialogue realting to the analysis of specific texts
  • demonstrate an ability to employ the theoretical frameworks discussed in the course so as to address specific research questions relating to orality, textual criticism, medium-specific textual theory and cross-cultural aspects of textual understanding with the student’s disciplinary context
  • demonstrate an ability to develop critical perspectives on current theoretical frameworks in their disciplinary context, with respect to the overarching thematics of world literature and the culture of texts

Practical information

The following course components are compulsory: completion of oral and written assignments in preparation for each class; an oral research presentation at a concluding workshop; participation in seminars and lectures.

The course is examined through shorter written assignments for each seminar, oral presentations and a research presentation at a concluding workshop.

The course is taught in English in the form of lectures, seminars and a workshop.

Period: Autumn semester 2018

The course has five scheduled meetings: 19/9, 26/9, 17/10, 7/11 and 14/12. See the course description below for further details.

Language of instruction: English

Course director: Stefan Helgesson

Theme coordinator: Stefan Helgesson

Course title in Swedish: Världslitteratur och textkulturer: Definitioner

The course is offered by the Department of English in collaboration with the Department of Culture and Aesthetics, the Department of Asian, Middle Eastern and Turkish Studies, the Department of Romance and Classical Languages, the Institute for Interpreting and Translation, and the Department of Slavic and Baltic Languages, Finnish, Dutch and German.

The course is part of the theme World Literatures and the Culture of Texts.