Content of the theme


What is a text? What happens when texts are remediated, edited, relocated or translated? What methods are available for textual study? How can textual theory, translation studies, and theories of world literature illuminate one another?

With its dual focus on textuality and cross-cultural comparison, this theme aims at providing critical and exploratory responses to these questions. It addresses thereby topics of high relevance to students in most domains of the humanities, including literature, language disciplines, translation, history, historical linguistics, and the history of ideas.

It will provide participants with essential and updated theoretical knowledge concerning media-specific conceptions of textuality, the “textual condition” (McGann), philology in both its historical and present iterations, methods of archival research, the importance of culture-specific approaches to textual analysis, and the methodological challenges posed by cultural globalisation, translation and the circulation of texts.

The theme World Literatures and the Culture of Texts is also connected to the large-scale research programme “Cosmopolitan and Vernacular Dynamics in World Literatures”, which is based at Stockholm University. More information on the programme can be found here. Students following the theme will have the opportunity to partake in events organised by the programme.

Four main components

The theme runs for two years, beginning in the autumn of 2018 and with one five-credit module being offered per term. The courses will be taught in seminar form and concluded with a workshop, including lectures by high-profile international speakers. The first guest speaker will be Karin Barber (Birmingham), whose lecture will kick off the theme on 19 September 2018.

Year one: Autumn 2018 — Spring 2019

The transcultural dimension is introduced already in the first module, “Definitions”, which will draw on contemporary research in African literature to show how also oral cultures “entextualise” verbal forms and messages. Print, digital media and media theory will also be explored in that module. In the spring 2019 module, “Methods”, the intention is to explore a range of approaches to textual artefacts, notably philological methods (archival, interpretative, text-critical). 

Year two: Autumn 2019 — Spring 2020

The third module, “Translation”, is focused on the challenge to read, write and publish across languages. Engaging both “close” and “distant” methods of reading, this course understands translation as involving the full recontextualisation of texts, from the selection to reception, facilitated by multiple mediators, both individual and institutional. The fourth module, “Texts in Transit”, finally, will engage migrant writing, alternative cultural vantage points for textual and literary analysis – specifically Arabic and Chinese – as well as the implications of ”bibliomigrancy” (books in transcontinental and transcultural circulation) for the text-focused humanities.

Practical arrangements and overview

The courses progress in terms of complexity, and will be examined on the basis of written assignments that together build towards a concluding symposium (2-3 days) at the end of the two years. Before then, however, students will be presenting and reviewing shorter papers in each module. It should be noted that students must take “Definitions” in order to follow “Methods”; “Translation” is likewise a requirement for admission to the course “Texts in Transit”.

Courses in World Literatures and the Culture of Texts:


Professor Stefan Helgesson, Department of English.

This page in Swedish: Världslitteratur och textkulturer