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The Value of Literary Circulation

Call for Papers | Der Wert der literarischen Zirkulation

Call for Papers | Der Wert der literarischen Zirkulation

Book project by Research Area 4 of the Cluster of Excellence Temporal Communities. Doing Literature in a Global Perspective: "Literary Currencies"

Deadline: 20 July 2020

News from May 05, 2020

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Edited by Michael Gamper, Jutta Müller-Tamm, David Wachter, Jasmin Wrobel


Research Area 4 of the Cluster of Excellence Temporal Communities. Doing Literature in a Global Perspective traces the entanglements of a transnational and globalised literature as it is produced and circulated among and within (trans-)temporal communities. The development of a notion of "literary currencies" is a centrepiece of this broader research agenda. The Value of Literary Circulation will examine two aspects of literary currencies and the relationship between them: the normative and normalising practices of evaluation, on the one hand, and the aesthetic, social, and economic production of value that accompanies the circulation of literature, on the other.


At the core of these considerations is an understanding of “circulation” that is conceptualised as a specific form of moving literary works through time and space. As such, circulation differs from other modes of medial movements such as “exchange”, “distribution”, “dissemination”, and “transmission”. Against the metaphorical use of the term – developed in the shadow of Stephen Greenblatt’s new historicism and Albrecht Koschorke’s mediology of “corporeal fluids” and “correspondence” – the authors propose a concept of circulation that is specific to literary circulation. The aim is to develop a notion of circulation that is methodically and theoretically distinct, as well as materially and phenomenally exact.

Several insights form the point of departure for this project. Circulation processes are characterised by specific forms of movement through space and time, which set literature in motion at a constant or changing speed, but in a historically progressive way as it traverses more or less stable spatial structures. It appears fruitful to distinguish between cyclical models of autonomous circulation and an understanding of circulation based on open“circuits”. Open circulations of the latter kind progress temporally in a spiral form or organise movement through “branches” and net-like structures which are designed for growth and surplus creation. They usually generate an infrastructure or use existing infrastructures to sustain their movement. They have different “threshold areas” where actors, institutions, and practices influence the course, direction, speed and quality of circulation.

From this hypothesis arise the following questions: What type of factors or actors, i.e. people, institutions, or networks, can put into motion or influence such a dynamic? What are the material formats (manuscript, book, magazine, orality, etc.) and media by which literature circulates? How is the distribution of literature related to other societal fields of circulation (of objects, people, goods, money, etc.)? How are evaluations formed within this process, and in which way does this positively or negatively affect different actors? Coming to the fore are questions regarding the formation of genres, canons, and institutions, as well as the construction (and problematisation) of authorship, addressed audiences, and processes of evaluation.

In this planned volume that will appear in the Globalisierte Literaturen [Globalised Literatures] series published by Metzler-Verlag, we want to deal with the problem of how the relationship between circulation and literary evaluation could be conceived. If possible, the individual essays should develop a specific problem using an exemplary case study or a concrete text constellation, and subsequently relate it to more general methodological and theoretical questions that arise from this problem.


The following questions are of specific interest: How can “circulation” be understood as a phenomenon of cultural and literary studies, and what is the methodological relation of philology and book science, media theory and historical discourse analysis? What are the competing concepts and practices of circulation that mark the historical continuities and ruptures of paradigm shifts (e.g. “around 1800,” “around 1900”)? What are the characteristic spatial and temporal dimensions (e.g. globality, cultural transfer, transnationality) or technological and social orders (e.g. network society) of a given circulatory system? What are the decisive factors behind the functionalism and purpose of circulation (e.g. political regulation, economic self-government)? Are there text genres that circulate more frequently or less, and how can these differences be explained? How is literary value, but also cultural prestige or economic capital, allotted and evaluated in processes of transmedial, transnational, and transcultural circulation? Can we recognize a distinct literary poetics of circulation in addition to a historical praxeology of a material dissemination of texts and an interdisciplinary poetics of knowledge of the figure of “circulation”? Coming from a philological and theoretical perspective, one might ask in which genres and through which techniques do processes of dissemination and exchange of texts become the subjects of literary works. How do these works relate the circulation of texts to other elements of this process (e.g. human actors, objects, signs, money, and medial actants like rumors) and are these dynamics reflected poetologically?


Submissions for a contribution to this volume will be accepted until July 20, 2020. Please send the title of the contribution and a short project proposal (3000 characters) to: michael.gamper@fu-berlin.de; muellert@zedat.fu-berlin.de; david.wachter@fu-berlin.de; jwrobel@zedat.fu-berlin.de.

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