The Slovenian Comparative Literature Association, REELC/ENCLS, and the ZRC SAZU/SRC SASA Institute for Slovenian Literature and Literary Studies cordially invite you to attend the international conference The Book: An Economy of Cultural Spaces, which will take place on 25 and 26 November 2010 at the ZRC SAZU/SRC SASA in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
The conference is being planned by the organizing committee, composed of Marko Juvan (ZRC SAZU, Ljubljana, head), Marijan Dović (ZRC SAZU), Jola Škulj (ZRC SAZU), Gašper Troha (University of Ljubljana), and Aleš Vaupotič (Academy of Design, Ljubljana). At its 12 September 2009 session in Vilnius, the REELC/ENCLS executive committee – whose members include Marko Juvan, Jola Škulj, and Aleš Vaupotič – included the symposium The Book: An Economy of Cultural Spaces in its schedule of scholarly meetings to be held between REELC/ENCLS congresses.
The conference concept: “The Book: An Economy of Cultural Spaces”
Through books and magazines as its main media, literature helps create the networks of cultural spaces. Books are not merely the material bearers of texts, but also cultural products or even artifacts and symbols with their own history, codes, value, and meaning. Together with the textual worlds of literature, into which the semiospheres of their contexts are copied, books are factors in the interactive and procedural formation of cultural identities. They are the memory and archive of a given culture, as well as its virtual windows into the world. In both cases and from today’s perspective, books are a necessary prerequisite of creative thought, through which a specific cultural space reinterprets itself, develops, and projects its utopias. The cultural transfer of literary texts in manuscripts, books, and magazines – as well as institutional forms and social models of literary life through them or in connection with them – has always crossed linguistic, ethnic, geographical, and national/political borders. The symbolic and market-oriented exchange of representations, and their translation into linguistically localized and geocultural codes, has revitalized the traditions of individual ethnic groups and nations. In this way, regional, transnational, and inter-civilizational networks were established and changed, through which literary ideas, mental spaces, textual structures, and conceptual roots of institutions and practices spread. This involves a cultural diffusion similar to epidemics in terms of contagiousness, viral mutations, and defense mechanisms. Without the unique economy of book transfer, in which the logics of the symbolic or cultural capital and market capital intersect, it would be impossible to speak of Goethe's idea of “world literature” or our participation in it, or international movements such as the Enlightenment and Modernism. With their economy, books and literature are mediators of cultural spaces: they materially and mentally establish both their “inner” coherence and continuity as well as their “outer” or “transnational” integration. The transfer of books and their systematic collection, cataloguing, analysis, commentary, and interpretation – all of these are factors that have shaped the history of the cosmopolitan awareness and consequently also the modern “system” of world literature.
This is the background to the conference, which will consider the relevance of the history of books and related media for contemporary, transnationally focused comparative literature and its reflection on the concept of world literature. The following issues will be discussed:
How did literary manuscripts circulate around the world, and how were the centers where they were created, preserved, and copied distributed? What did the invention of printed books and the expansion of literary journals signify for the distribution, dissemination, and reception of ideas, notions, and imaginary spaces of literature?
Is the view that book printing, publishers, and libraries established the world literature infrastructure, as well as international literary movements such as the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and Modernism, well founded?
What were the roles of private, university, school, academic, and public libraries in cultural transfer? How did they shape cosmopolitan awareness and enable literary production to transcend provinciality and benefit from broader backgrounds, and richer cultural archives (namely “world,” and “European” literature)?
How were works of fiction and information on them exchanged and collected through letters, salons, and other contacts between European intellectuals? How did this help form the transnational writers’ networks and the universal cultural space (i.e., the “literary republic”)?
How did changes in the physical characteristics of books (the “bibliographic code”) affect the global development of literature and its genres? What was the intermediary role of distinguishing profiles for literary and cultural periodicals?
How did the economics of the publishing industry and library science in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries affect the global distribution of literary and cultural capital, and the asymmetric communications between the centers and the peripheries?
Did the new media condense or expand the global literary space with the event of the World Wide Web, e-books, virtual libraries, and electronic archives in comparison to the codex book, and how?
Which media and media hybrids from digital, electronic, technically reproducible, and traditional non-technical contexts are connected with the shift realized by the new media? What are the roles of hybrids of visual and verbal modes of expression? And how to regard in such a particular light other hybrids (from Emblem books through artists’ books to experimental book forms)?
Since our culture is geocritically situated at the edges and marked by the permeability and fluidity of borders as well as by the intersection of heterogeneous regions (west and east, central European and Mediterranean), and has been decisively linked to the Slovenian language and Slovenian literature from the Reformation onwards, the book as a cultural document and a bearer of cultural, symbolic and economic values is all the more deserving of serious and conscientious consideration. As the “world book capital” from April 2010 to spring 2011, Ljubljana is an appropriate place for bringing together and examining more thorough comparative-literature and interdisciplinary discussion of the history and future of books, especially their role in the development of European and world literature. The answers to these questions can define the challenges that a common European future poses to the book and the quests in art and knowledge connected with it.
Conference official languages and papers
Official languages used at the conference will be English, French, and Slovenian (Slovenian papers will be accompanied by projections with English or French translations). Twenty to thirty scholars are expected to participate at the conference. Upon arrival, all the participants will receive a booklet of abstracts in the official languages.
Venue and accommodation
The conference will take place on Thursday and Friday, 25 and 26 November 2010, at Scientific Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, close to the National and University Library, in Ljubljana’s historic center. There will be no registration fee. The conference dinner for the participants and refreshments during breaks will be paid for by the organizers. Participants book and pay for their hotel accommodations themselves. The organizing committee will release a list with addresses and prices of available hotels by the end of June 2010. A one-day excursion to a region of Slovenia is planned for Saturday. Everyone can reserve his/her place for the excursion by the beginning of November and can pay for it at the start of the conference.
Procedures and registration deadlines
By 15 June 2010: please send an English, French, or Slovenian title and abstract of your paper (no more than 300 words) to or ; write your full name, academic position, complete work address (including your fax number and e-mail), and a short CV with bibliographic data on a maximum of three publications connected with the conference topic (less than 1,000 characters).
By 30 June 2010: you will be informed by e-mail whether your paper has been included in the conference program. You will also receive practical information on the hotel accommodations and the excursion as well as instructions on the papers’ typographical layout.
The conference on the web
From May 2010 onwards, information on the conference, practical information, the schedule of events, and later also abstracts will be available on the websites of REELC/ENCLS, the Slovenian Comparative Literature Association, and the ZRC SAZU/SRC SASA Institute for Slovenian Literature and Literary Studies.
Publication of papers
Longer, edited versions of papers will first be published in the form of conference proceedings on the REELC/ENCLS website, presumably by the end of June 2011. The final deadline for submitting papers (max. 30,000 characters with spaces) is 15 January 2011. Due to financial limitations, only peer-reviewed contributions will appear in printed form (as part of a monograph volume published by ZRC SAZU/SRC SASA and/or a thematic issue of the journal Primerjalna književnost [Comparative Literature], indexed on the A&HCI). Publication is planned by the end of 2011.