Global Publishing and the Making of Literary Worlds: Translation, Media, and Mobility
This conference offers early career scholars the opportunity to explore the state of global publishing both as an object of inquiry and in terms of the current academic and trade book markets they seek to enter. It combines advances in the study of comparative and world literatures with practical workshops about scholarly publishing. Participants and plenary speakers will be drawn from academia and also from a number of university and trade presses. Editors and publishers will engage with prospective authors in a variety of forums including individual coaching sessions.
Today, perhaps more than ever, what we write and publish makes a difference. The pandemic, economic crises, issues of systemic racism, along with xenophobia and a surfeit of global and societal inequities have already prompted global responses, many in writing. As we look to the future, it has become all the more important to imagine the books we will most want to read—and to write. These same crises and concerns also lend new urgency to the task of frankly confronting the challenges of publishing. For scholarly writers, it is important to understand how zones of peer review and channels of communication determined by scholarly fields and practices shape decisions on which manuscripts will be published. Might we bear these in mind while also writing for a broader, more global intellectual audience? How can we ensure that scholarly works still have an impact, and a market? This may, indeed, be one of the greatest challenges—and gifts—of publishers as we work to re-imagine the future.
Publishing translations is often influenced by market—and particularly, national market—concerns. Despite our desire as comparatists to usher in a golden age for multiple languages, literatures, and translations, markets have often remained stubbornly national (for example, in major markets such as the British, American, French, Spanish and German, writers from those countries dominate bestseller and literary lists; this may also be the case with other markets worldwide). The last global financial crisis of 2008 produced a seismic shift in global publishing—novels, short stories and poetry giving further ground to genre writing (fantasy, crime, dystopic fiction). Trends in scholarly publishing have also shifted, as academic presses have processed the structural consequences of 2008, including reduced subsidies from university endowments and budgets, reduced library acquisitions, the diminishment of scholarly book engagement—and more stringent criteria for the books and especially the translations they choose to publish. The post-pandemic era is likely to see an intensification of these effects.
For scholars of comparative and world literatures, such changes pose a number of theoretical, ethical, and practical questions: How will presses continue to publish the books that sustain and inspire us as innovative thinkers and researchers? How does the publication of translations affect what we can read in a global context? How do various languages (including some of the “smaller” ones) figure in these opportunities? How does translation affect scholarly publication in particular? Has the world-wide migration of peoples in recent decades changed the translation and dissemination of literary and scholarly texts? If so, how? To what extent is the current scholarly commitment to writing by underrepresented groups of all kinds reflected in the publishing market? How has the digital dissemination of artistic and scholarly work changed practices of reading, writing—and publishing—across languages and cultures? How often and in what ways are authors and the publishing industry engaged with other media?
In the context of today’s economic and political instabilities, the value of reading, writing, and thinking across languages, cultures, and media may well need to be promoted as never before. To begin to think in global terms, we must seek inspired theories and practices of comparative and world literature. But we must also understand and promote publishing practices that can address and engage not only colleagues within our specific disciplines and nations, but also a wider range of individuals within and beyond such bounds.
This conference intends to bring these broad concerns to the forefront as it offers a perhaps unprecedented focus on the mechanics of publishing. It is designed for scholars already writing or revising a thesis or book for publication, who will submit a required one-to two-page book description along with an optional conference paper abstract (no more than 250 words) as part of their registration.
The required book description will serve as the basis for the coaching sessions during which editors will offer individual advice (not contracts or publishing agreements.) The book description should summarize the book’s content and main argument for educated nonspecialists, including the purpose, thesis, approach, and general plan of the book. What key questions or problems does the proposed book address or answer? How will your book contribute to the literature of its field, and in what way is it distinctive? How might it contribute to fields beyond your immediate specialty?
After attending this conference, scholars should have a better understanding of how to write and pitch their books—and have gained new insights into the potential meaning of their work for today’s global context.