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GLOBAL LITERARY THEORY

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - GlobalLIT (GLOBAL LITERARY THEORY)

Reporting period: 2021-05-01 to 2022-10-31

World literature remains overwhelmingly Eurocentric in its empirical focus as well as in its conceptual foundations. GlobalLIT addresses this gap, not simply by adding more materials to the global literary canon, but by rethinking the global meaning of literature across time and space.

Focusing on texts, canons, and traditions that have been obscured for millennia, GlobalLIT examines how premodern literature from the Islamic world, in particular the Caucasus, was written and considered, how it fitted into a wider sphere of broader cosmopolitan and vernacular literary flows, and how it can help to inaugurate a paradigm shift within contemporary literary theory.

Among our most important contributions is the excavation of the forgotten tradition of Islamic rhetoric (‘ilm al-balagha) for the contemporary study of literary form.

Considering material that has never, or inadequately, been studied before, we develop new ways of:

Testing, and contesting, the hypothetical absence of literary theory before modernity
Move beyond literary modernism, conceptually as well as empirically
Using pre-modern literary reflexivity to enrich contemporary literary theory

We move beyond modernist understandings of literary critique as we engaging the with literary-theoretical traditions of the Islamic world, with a particular focus on Persian, Turkic, and Arabic. We also look closely at intersections between these major languages and local vernaculars, including Georgian, Armenian, Kurdish, and Urdu.

Although the risks and challenges of mapping, reconstructing, and studying such a varied set of literary theoretical traditions are formidable, the loss to literary studies when pre-modern literatures are labelled irrelevant, is arguably much greater.

A key innovative of our project is that we bring together sources that prior to this project were mostly considered in isolation from each other within their respective literary traditions. Turkic literary sources were examined in relation to prior works of Turkic literary history; Persian literary sources were examined in relation to prior works of Persian literary history, and so on. Arabic was sometimes a basis for common comparison, but the three literary traditions were rarely examined together and in their interrelations. We also go beyond this comparative framework by looking to the so-called minor literatures which these traditions inspired across the Islamic world.
Since the beginning of GlobalLIT, we have been actively translating and analysing the literary-theoretical heritage of the Persian, Turkic, and Arabic traditions.

Among Persian sources, we have translated the first extant Persian treatise on literary theory, Raduyani’s Tarjuman al-Balagha. We have also translated the literary-critical writings of South Asian poet Amir Khusrow and the South Asian critic Khan-i Arzu.

Among Arabic sources, we have translated key works by al-Jajiz, And al-Qahir al-Jurjani, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, al-Khafaji, and al-Askari. We have also identified the remaining works that need to be translated over the course of the rest of the project.

We have also amassed a rich archive of translations from multiple Turkic traditions, including Ottoman, Chaghatay, and Azeri. Texts translated within the framework of this stand include Mustafa al-Sururi (Bahru l-maʿarif), Asik Chelebi, Musṭafa ʿİzzet, the Chaghatay poet Nava'i and the Ottoman poet Fuzuli. Several blog posts on our website cover this rich literary legacy.

These translation enable us to view the long traditions of literary theory in Persian, Turkic, and Arabic internally and intertextually, within their respective tradition, and across the three literatures that are our main focus.

Alongside our translations which will be gathered together in a pathbreaking anthology, we have published over ten peer-reviewed articles focusing on specific works of literary theory from the Islamic world. These studies have appeared in journals such as New Literary History, Modernism/Modernity, and Alif.
The remainder of the project will be focused on finalising materials for the multi-volume anthology, which is the major and primary output of the project. The work will include revising existing translations, implementing a consistent transliteration scheme across the three languages, developing and finalizing the digital components, finalizing headnotes and other critical apparatus, and liaising with the publisher. In addition to our work on the anthology, several further further peer-reviewed publications are expected, including articles focusing on texts translated for the anthology, and brooding their implications for the wider discipline of comparative literature and global poetics.

Alongside the translational activities that form the core of our work, we have been editing Post-Eurocentric Poetics: New Approaches from Arabic, Persian and Turkic Literary Theory, which comprises the proceedings of a workshop convened in the early phases of this project. Like our translational activity this is a comparative work that moves beyond the state of the art by bringing Arabic, Persian, and Turkic poetics into comparison.

We have developed several channels for the scientific communication of these outputs. The first is a working paper series called Licit Magic in which draft translations are shared with the scholarly community and the general public. Comprising translations of and commentaries on key works of poetics, rhetoric, literary theory, and related areas of inquiry from the literatures of the Islamic world, Licit Magic – Working Papers will open up new venues for literary scholars, allowing them easy access into texts that are otherwise accessible only to specialists. The first output of that series, Kristof D’hulster's "Fuzūlī’s Preface to his Turkish Dīvān. Introduction & Translation," is viewable here: https://globallit.hcommons.org. We envision that there may be some overlap between the translations included in this series and our anthology, although the working papers will also be used as a means of making available in open access format material which could not be included in the anthology. Although the initial contributors to the working papers series will be from project team members, the series will eventually be open to all scholars working in literatures pertinent to the project.

Our outreach to the wider public includes the publication Global Literary Theory on Medium.com (https://medium.com/global-literary-theory) our website (https://globallit.hcommons.org) twitter feed (https://twitter.com/balaghas?lang=en) and ResearchGate (https://www.researchgate.net/project/Global-Literary-Theory-ERC-Starting-Grant-no-759346).

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