Comparative Literature


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Upcoming Hermes Summer School - Call for Papers


Italian Institute of Germanic Studies
Villa Sciarra-Wurts, Rome, Italy 18-22 June 2018  
Speakers and Accommodation Details
Conference Program

Villa Sciarra View

UCL is proud to be a founding member of the Hermes Consortium for Literary and Cultural Studies, a long-standing collaboration of eleven doctoral schools in Belgium, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, France, and the USA, with a proven record of international excellence in the field of Comparative Literary Studies. The Consortium’sannual summer school, hosted in turn by each partner institution, brings together specialists, delegates from the partner universities and 22 PhD students (two per university). Intensive training workshops and work-in-progress presentations focus on shared methodologies and themes and lead to the publication of an annual edited volume, published by UCL Press in the Comparative Literature and Culture series, co-edited by Prof. Timothy Mathews and Dr Florian Mussgnug.

The 2018 edition of Hermes, jointly hosted by UCL and the Italian Institute of Germanic Studies in Rome [Istituto Italiano di Studi Germanici], will take its timely topic from the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) ongoing research initiative for 2017-18: “Vulnerability”. We will explore the intrinsic ambivalence of this concept, which suggests both fragility and openness, and will pay attention to narratives of vulnerability but also to the ways in which texts and traditions may become vulnerable: to loss, censorship, editorial intervention, or interpretation. We will engage with shifting historical contexts and approach comparative studies as an opening to other fields of disciplinary inquiry, including neuroscience, which provides new perspectives on human perception and defence behaviour. Our philosophical and juridical understanding of vulnerability will be further advanced by the contribution of PRIN 2015 “Legal Entity and Vulnerability”, a large collaborative research initiative funded by the National Research Council of Italy.

Details for abstracts and papers are available here.

Past Events

Poetry in Translation with Clare Pollard and Erica Hesketh

A public panel chaired by Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen
Tuesday, 08-05-2018  From 18:00 with a drinks reception afterwards
305 Clarke Hall, Institute of Education (IOE)

Please RSVP via Eventbrite
View Event on facebook

Contact: The Comparative Literature Lecture Committee

Anne Perry Event

A public lecture by Anne Perry
Wednesday, 21-03-2018  From 18:00 with a drinks reception afterwards
UCL Rockefeller Building, 337 David Sacks Room

Contact: The Comparative Literature Lecture Committee


A public lecture by Boyd Tonkin
Tuesday, 13-03-2018 
18:00 - 19:30 Duration: 45 minutes with a drinks reception afterwards 
Room allocated: UCL Wilkins Garden Room 

Contact: The Comparative Literature Lecture Committee

From Scandinavia to the World:
Metropolitan Appropriations of Ibsen’s Drama

A public lecture by SELCS Honorary Lecturer Professor Narve Fulsås (UiT)

Tuesday, 20-02-2018
17:00 - 19:00 Duration: 120 minutes
Room allocated: Gordon Square (16-18) 101 

Contact: Dr Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen


The internationalization of Ibsen’s drama was heavily influenced and shaped by Scandinavian literature being largely unknown and perceived as peripheral and provincial in the literary centres of Europe. This cultural asymmetry resulted in a range of different strategies from Ibsen’s mediators, determined by their own positions and aspirations in the metropolitan hierarchies.

In this paper, Fulsås will distinguish between three ideal typical strategies of appropriation. The first we might call imperial appropriations: appropriations of foreign literature and drama in ways that confirmed the existing aesthetic norms and the universality of the appropriating culture. One example is the practice of adapting Ibsen plays in accordance with domestic theatre conventions, or underlining his universal, ‘poetic’ qualities. The second strategy, radical appropriations, sought, on the contrary, to use translated literature in order to challenge and overturn existing aesthetic and/or political hierarchies. Examples range from naturalists and symbolists in the theatre to the Ibsen enthusiasts among British socialists and feminists. Such mediators would often produce Ibsen’s plays barely recognisable in his originating contexts. Mediators of a third kind might be called faithful translators. While there is no such thing as a fully ‘authentic’ appropriation, it is remarkable and significant that some mediators put such emphasis on familiarity with the originating language and culture in translation and truthfulness to the text in performance, particularly in the case of an author coming from such inauspicious origins. A major example of this third kind is William Archer as well as several European actresses.

State of the Discipline - Blog Post

state of discipline blog

On 19 January 2018, UCL Comparative Literature held a workshop on ‘the state of the discipline’. The afternoon started with an inspiring talk by Prof. Mads Rosendahl Thomsen (Aarhus University; author of Mapping World Literature: International Canonization and Transnational Literature (2008) and The New Human in Literature: Posthuman Visions of Changes in Body, Mind and Society (2013) and a member of the executive committee of the International Comparative Literature Association) and continued with a workshop led by Dr Stefano Rossoni (UCL Comparative Literature).

The workshop took inspiration form the ACLA State of the Discipline Report, and invited students to reflect on how they perceive the study of Comparative Literature based on how the discipline is taught and practiced at UCL and their own experiences and expectations as young comparatists. By the end of the workshop, participating BA, MA and PhD students produced and published short posts now available on our blog: https://uclstateofthediscipline.weebly.com/


4:00-4:45 What does it mean to study comparative literature today?
Lecture by Professor Mads Rosendahl Thomsen (Aarhus University)

Professor Mads Rosendahl Thomsen

Prof. Rosendahl Thomsen is the author of Mapping World Literature: International Canonization and Transnational Literature (2008), The New Human in Literature: Posthuman Visions of Changes in Body, Mind and Society (2013), and the editor of several volumes, including World Literature: A Reader (2012) and The Posthuman Condition: Ethics, Aesthetics and Politics of Biotechnological Challenges (2012).

He is a member of the Academia Europaea, an advisory board member of the Institute for World Literature and a member of the executive committee of the International Comparative Literature Association.

4:45-6:00 Student workshop led by Dr Stefano Rossoni (UCL Comparative Literature)

Taking our inspiration form the ACLA State of the Discipline Report, this workshop invites students to reflect on how they perceive the study of Comparative Literature based on how the discipline is taught and practiced at UCL and their own experiences and expectations as young comparatists. By the end of the workshop, participating students will produce and publish a short texts that will make up a blog on the state of Comparative Literature at UCL and beyond.

4:00–6:00pm, Friday 19 January 2018
Wilkins Garden Room, UCL

RSVP via Eventbrite
You can also view the event on our facebook page.


UCL Comparative Literature Lecture Committee is proud to announce its opening event:

Book Launch of Professor Svend Erik Larsen’s Literature and the Experience of Globalization (Bloomsbury 2017).

Thu 23 November 2017, 17:00 – 20:00 at University College London, Gower Street, Wilkins Garden Room, London, WC1E 6BT, View Map

To book a free ticket for the event, visit the Eventbrite page: https://tinyurl.com/yajz4p9z

About our speaker:
Svend Erik Larsen is Professor Emeritus at Aarhus University, Denmark and Honorary Professor at UCL.

About the book and the talk:
Taking literary globalization studies beyond its traditional political focus, Literature and the Experience of Globalization explores how writers from Shakespeare through Goethe to Isak Dinesen, J.M. Coetzee, Amitav Ghosh and Bruce Chatwin engage with the human dimensions of globalization. Through a wide range of insightful close readings, Svend Erik Larsen brings contemporary world literature approaches to bear on cross-cultural experiences of migration and travel, translation, memory, history and embodied knowledge. In doing so, this important intervention demonstrates how literature becomes an essential site for understanding the ways in which globalization has become an integral part of everyday experience.

Followed by a wine reception.

For more information about the even and lecture series, please contact UCL BA Comparative Literature Student and member of the organizing committee Maria Lewandowska (mania.lewandowska@gmail.com).

In Search of Proust's Music

Our event In Search of Proust's Music Matthew Sweet, in conversation with Jennifer Rushworth (UCL, French Department), unpicks the musical thread running through Marcel Proust’s life and his great novel of memory, ‘In Search of Lost Time’. 

Matthew Sweet

Including readings from Proust by Simon Russell Beale, and the music of Beethoven, Schumann, Wagner, Reynaldo Hahn, Debussy, Fauré and Saint-Saëns, performed by soprano Ailish Tynan, violinist Jack Liebeck and pianists Iain Burnside and Katya Apekisheva.

Saturday 14 October 2017 19:55-22:00 
Wellcome Collection tickets (free) and more information here: bit.ly/2xUMIgl
N.B. This programme will also be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. .Silva Code Source «Indigo: Add horizontal rule»

"Edges of the Human: Embodiment, Enactment, and Materiality in Greek Tragedy”  A Symposium with Professor Nancy Worman (Columbia/Barnard) 

Edges of the Human Event Image

: 30th June 2017 

The symposium will centre on the draft manuscript of Nancy Worman’s forthcoming work on bodies and their edges in ancient Greek tragedy.  The respondents are Rachel Bowlby (UCL) and Daniel Orrells (KCL).  The event is now at capacity, and we regret that we cannot accept any further participants. 

For further information, please contact Professor Phiroze Vasunia at p.vasunia@ucl.ac.uk.  The symposium is sponsored by the Department of Greek and Latin, the Department of Comparative Literature, and the Institute of Advanced Studies at UCL.

PhD candidate Eva-Charlotta Mebius has been awarded a research grant from the Helge Ax:son Johnson Foundation for her doctoral work on the representation of apocalypse in British and Swedish literature and art in the nineteenth century.


The Helge Ax:son Johnson Foundation’s principal objective is the facilitation of scientific research and the support of literature and the arts.

Eva-Charlotte’s research, under the supervision of Professor Matthew Beaumont and Dr Florian Mussgnug, focuses on the development of apocalypse literature in the 18th and 19th century. Her work on Charles Dickens and the apocalyptic poet Thomas J. Ouseley is forthcoming in Dickens Quarterly (September 2017).

First Annual UCL Comparative Literature Tagore Lecture 

Professor Matthew L. Jockers (University of Nebraska): Novel Analytics from James Joyce to the Bestseller Code


Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre
2nd Floor, South Junction, Wilkins Building 
Gower Street 
United Kingdom

Wed 10 May 2017, 6pm 

Abstract: To better understand bestselling fiction, Matthew Jockers and research partner Jodie Archer took the advice of Google researchers who argue that we should "embrace complexity and make use of the best ally we have: the unreasonable effectiveness of data.”  Instead of seeking a formula or telling authors how to write a successful novel, Jockers and Archer went to the books, thousands of them, and leveraged computation to ask a simple question: "what are these texts made of?"  The bold claim of their research, documented in The Bestseller Code, is that novels that hit the New York Times bestseller list are not random lottery winners but books that share an uncanny number of textual features.  In this lecture, Jockers will describe how he went from being a close reader of language in Joyce's Ulysses to mining thousands of novels in search of the linguistic patterns most typical to books that best sell. Bio:  Matthew L. Jockers is the Susan J. Rosowski Associate Professor of English and Associate Dean for Research and Partnerships in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Nebraska.  He is a Faculty Fellow in the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities and Director of the Nebraska Literary Lab.  Jockers’s research is focused on computational approaches to the study of literature, especially large collections of literature. His books include Macroanalysis: Digital Methods and Literary History (UIUC Press 2013), Text Analysis with R for Students of Literature (Spring 2014) and, with Jodie Archer, The Bestseller Code: Anatomy of the Blockbuster Novel (St. Martins 2016). His research has been profiled in the academic and main stream press including features in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Nature, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wired, New Scientist, Smithsonian, NBC News and many others.  More on Jockers can be found at www.matthewjockers.net Hyperlink for registration https://tagorelecture2017.eventbrite.co.uk

Please check the main UCL Highlights page for further cross departmental events.