Special issue of CompLit: Journal of European Literature, Arts and Society, the Journal of the European Society of Comparative Literature, published by Éditions Garnier: European Popular Literatures and Their Sociocultural Implications
The term ‘popular literature’ is characterized by its adjective coming from Latin ‘populāris’ indicating the ‘belonging to the common people,’ as opposed to more privileged social groups. From the viewpoint of cultural history, the three kinds of literary production —Folk Literature, High Literature and Popular Literature— have always interacted. The concept of ‘High Literature’ derived in the 19th century from the German ‘Hochliteratur’, and ‘Folk Literature’ came from ‘Volksliteratur’. Although they were distinguished by different means of composition, transmission and reception —the first occurring in lasting fixed manuscript and print forms, the second by means of ephemeral aural performance— their crossings and hybridity have been persistent features of interest in Comparative Literature. For example, considered as ‘High Literature’, Homeric Hymns retained many of the usual characteristics of their oral origin, such as repetitions and formulaic expressions.
It is important to point out that the impact of the industrial revolutions and technological advance has been determinant for growing literacy rates and for the emergence of new forms of artistic representation, knowledge transfer, and instruction in education. Technological and cultural changes were the cause behind the transformation of literary forms and the changes in their forms of reception. Myths and supernatural stories are one example coming from the oral tradition. Initially intended as sacred knowledge before the emergence of the empirical paradigm, they were rewritten in the form of wonder-tales adapted for younger audiences. When a wider range of channels of transmission materialized in the 19th century, critical assumptions, as well as the methodological and canonical selections being performed, emphasized a sort of tacit premise that Folk and Popular Literature lacked artistic sophistication and even seriousness. However, if one explores Greco-Roman reception, it becomes evident that it was partially established by means of translations that transformed and popularized the Classics to the point of mutating the poetic epic tradition into prose narratives. Thus, cross-fertilization has also served to bring previous inaccessible cultural heritage closer to the general public.
Alongside generic hybridism, enhanced since the 1990s by digitalization and the growth of intermedial and transmedial formats, Popular Literature has served various political functions, some of which are suggested in the topics listed below. Among those, and related to the debate between canonicity and emergent literatures, we can mention the controversies surrounding center/periphery dynamics, as well as identity politics, where the concept of ‘otherness’ becomes a fundamental factor. While ancient tales embodied a normative storyline with a young protagonist initiating a migratory journey and engaging in various tasks and tests, successfully overcoming all the vicissitudes of what Joseph Campbell identified as ‘the monomyth’, and Carl Jung related to the different stages of the individuation process, the rite-of-passages enacted in these tales of maturation were also interpreted as forms of community and national identity building. In this sense, from the perspective of Comparative Literature, Popular fiction has provided a virtual stage where to test many of the issues and concerns taking place in the real world, as well as the grounds for nostalgic imagining other possible scenarios, both prospective and retrospective.
With the expansion of the variety of forms of knowledge transmission and storage, and the spread of education and literacy, recently including the world of digital hypertexts, Popular Literature, continues to grow in an increasing number of forms of mass media intended for the consumption of common people, now termed ‘prosumers’ (simultaneously, producers and consumers). In this sense, it has gradually become an unofficial alternative to canonicity and normative education, including numerous pros and cons (among them, the controversies about ‘fakeness’). Unlike what it would seem, the process has not meant a complete disregard for the old literary forms; for example, the hypertextual merging of annotated forms of writing can be contemplated almost as a return to ancient marginal glossing. Indeed, multiple mutating forms of interaction have emerged with the transformation of traditional repertoires into intermedial and transmedial formats. In sum, the exploration of popular imageries, their re-writings and media adaptations, their inter-artistic crossings and sociological implications is a fundamental area of research in the mapping of European identities and cultural life.
Contributions to the proposed special issue of CompLit: Journal of European Literature, Arts and Society will include around ten peer-reviewed papers that will investigate some of the proposed topics listed below in order to highlight the human, social and cultural functions of Popular Literature in the European context and establish their glocal (both global and local) universality.
Comparative Literature and European Popular Cultures
Tradition, Modernity, Cultural Politics and Popular Literatures
Canon and Non-canon in European Popular Literatures
Myth, History, Memory, Popular Literatures and European Identities
Migration and Memory in European Popular Literatures
Community, Diaspora and Nostalgia in European Popular Literatures
Lifestyles and Popular Literatures: gastronomy, leisure, work, habits, etc.
Youth, aesthetics and Popular Literature (i.e. Punk aesthetics)
European Popular Literatures and Intercultural Dialogue
Gender-defined Spaces, Places and Tropes in European Popular Literatures
Cosplay: Costume Play, Identity and Global Fandom in European Popular Literatures
Fake and Real: Popular Literatures, Speculation and Wonder
From Fables and Romances to Tales: U-texts, Folk Tales and the Multiform European Oral Tradition
Utopia, Dystopia and Heterotopia in European Popular Literatures
Uncanny Transformations: from Fairytales to Horror in European Popular Literatures
European Popular Literatures and the Labyrinths of Reception
European Folk Poetry and Song: Riddles, Traditional Tunes Ballads and Multiverse
European Popular Literatures and Inter-Art: music, performance, visual arts, graphic narratives, digital literature, etc.
Hybrid Transformations: Translation, Intermedial and Transmedial Adaptation in European Popular Literatures
From Print to Screen: Mapping European TV and Cinema
From Anonymity to Mediatic Success: the Circulation of European Popular Literatures
Popular Literatures, Geopolitics and Conflict in Europe
Migration and Exile in European Popular Literatures
Popular Literatures and European Crises (war, economic austerity, health and safety, etc.)
Popular Literatures and Populism
European Popular Literatures and beyond: from the Local to the Global
Deadlines: Full papers are expected by 30 Sept. 2021. Peer-review process will take place between Sept-Nov. 2021. Revisions between Dec. 2021 to Feb. 2022. Typesetting and publication is expected later in 2022.
Papers must follow the Garnier guidelines.
Languages: papers for this issue can be in English, French and Spanish. Out of around 10 selected papers, only 2 can be in French and 2 in Spanish. The rest in English.
Prospective contributors must be or become members of the European Society of Comparative Literature by December 2020 and continue to be members in 2021 (https://escl-selc.eu/become-a-member/).
There are no publication costs in the Journal of the European Society of Comparative Literature.