Special Issue "Transcultural Literary Studies: Politics, Theory, and Literary Analysis"

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 April 2016).

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A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Bernd Fischer Website E-Mail
Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA
Interests: German, Literature, Culture and Thought; National Imaginaries and Transculturality; German-Jewish Thought around 1800; Aesthetics of Recognition

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The last few decades have seen a significant increase in transcultural studies, ranging from psychology and nursing to cultural anthropology, political philosophy, and literary studies. This Special Issue of Humanities invites authors to discuss principal disciplinary or cross-disciplinary tenets of transculturalism and/or offer readings that showcase literature’s potential of engaging many of the overlapping and, at times, contradictory aspects of transcultural paradigms.

Highlighting transcultural interpretations (beyond multi- or cross-cultural readings and in critical tension with conceptualizations of national or sub-national cultures) is, by no small measure, a political decision that is often prompted and guided by a search for pre-cultural and cultural commonalities as a basis for the design of universal human rights, international law, transnational administrative structures, and global education. At the same time, transcultural approaches are, prima fasciae, deeply rooted in the ethos and tradition of the natural sciences, digital sciences, numerous social sciences, and some areas within the humanities (e.g., philosophy). For most disciplines in the humanities an engaged discussion about the political and scholarly implications (potentials and dangers) of transcultural studies seems highly desirable. Some have even suggested that the humanities are in need of strategies that can move its discourse onto a different plane, for instance, a shift from an emphasis on conceptions of collective identities to conceptual models of transcultural individuals (e.g., a re-centering of the individual self, as Wolfgang Welsch and others have proposed).

Discussing potential paths towards a theory of transcultural literary interpretation should be informed by the disciplinary history of literary studies, as well as developments in pertinent fields, such as evolutionary anthropology and cognitive science (for instance, new approaches to concepts of empathy, perception, language, reason, religious studies, etc.), to name just two obvious candidates. At the same time, it is crucial to assemble a set of model readings of significant literary texts that can demonstrate the exploratory potential of literary studies for a general emphasis on transcultural scholarship. In all of this, it is of great importance that we avoid falling victim to the trappings of some of our most worshiped binary pairs such as particularism and universalism, diversity and homogenization, nationalism and cosmopolitanism.

Prof. Dr. Bernd Fischer
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Humanities is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

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References:
Bond, Lucy and Jessica Rapson, ed. The Transcultural Turn Interrogating Memory Between and Beyond Borders (2014).
Centre for Transcultural Research and Media Practice (Dublin Institute of Technology; since 2004).
Centre for Transcultural Writing and Research (Lancester University; since 2014).
Cuccioletta, Donald. “Multiculturalism or Transculturalism: Towards a Cosmopolitan Citizenship” (2002).
Dagnino, Arianna, “Global Mobility, Transcultural Literature, and Multiple Modes of Modernity” (2013).
Dagnino, Arianna. Transcultural Writers and Novels in the Age of Global Mobility (2015).
Davis, Geoffrey V. and Peter H. Marsden, ed. Towards a Transcultural Future: Literature and Human Rights in a ‘Post’-Colonial World (2004).
Erll, Astrid. “Migration and Transcultural Memory: Literature, Film, and Plurimedia Constellations” (DFG project, since 2014).
Grosu, Lucia-Mihaela. “Multiculturalism of Transculturalism? Views on Colutural Diversity (2012).
Hepp, Andreas. “Transculturality as a Perspective: Researching Media Cultures Comparatively” (2009).
Lindberg-Wada, Gunilla, ed. Studying Transcultural Literary History (2006).
MacDougall, David. Transcultural Cinema (1998).
Meinhof, Ulrike Hanna and Anna Triandafyllidou, ed. Transcultural Europe Cultural Policy in a Changing Europe (2006).
Moslund, Sten Pultz. Migration Literature and Hybridity. The Different Speeds of Transcultural Change (2010).
Nordin, Irene et al. Transcultural Identities in Contemporary Literature (2013).
Petterson, Anders et al. Literary History: Towards a Global Perspective (4 volumes; 2004).
Pollock, David and Ruth Van Reken. Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds (2009).
In Search for Transcultural Memory in Europe (ISTME; Research Center).
Slimbach, Richard. “The Transcultural Journey” (2005).
Takkula, Hannu, Jukka Kangaslahti and Joseph Banks. “Teaching transcultural competence: From language learning to experiential education” (2008).
Waldmann, Anne and Laura Wright, ed. Cross Worlds: Transcultural Poetics. An Anthology (2014).
Welsch, Wolfgang. “Transculturality – the Puzzling Form of Cultures Today” (1996).

Keywords

  • theories and philosophies of transculturalism
  • defining the transcultural
  • transcultural politics
  • the history of transcultural literature
  • transcultural aesthetics
  • transcultural memory
  • education and transcultural literary interpretation
  • world literature and the transcultural self
  • reading outside of the safe haven of culturalism

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial
Special Issue Introduction “Transcultural Literary Studies: Politics, Theory, and Literary Analysis”
Humanities 2016, 5(4), 86; https://doi.org/10.3390/h5040086 - 21 Dec 2016
Abstract
As we witness the rise of intemperate nationalism, self-indulgent nativism, and aggressive xenophobia in many countries, multi- and intercultural studies and initiatives have come under considerable pressure.[...] Full article

Research

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Open AccessArticle
Genealogies and Challenges of Transcultural Studies
Humanities 2017, 6(1), 4; https://doi.org/10.3390/h6010004 - 24 Feb 2017
Abstract
My introductory essay discusses some of transculturalism’s enduring conceptual challenges from the perspective of the history of German cultural and political theory. I am particularly interested in the discursive space between Immanuel Kant’s individualism and Johann Gottfried Herder’s and Moses Mendelssohn’s concepts of [...] Read more.
My introductory essay discusses some of transculturalism’s enduring conceptual challenges from the perspective of the history of German cultural and political theory. I am particularly interested in the discursive space between Immanuel Kant’s individualism and Johann Gottfried Herder’s and Moses Mendelssohn’s concepts of cultural identity. My hope is that such a discussion can enrich some of our current questions, such as: Have culture studies placed too much emphasis on difference, rather than on commonality? Can a renewed interest in the cosmopolitan individual surpass the privileged position of academic or upper-class internationalism? Can concepts of transculturality avoid the pitfalls of homogenizing politics or overstretched individualism? After mentioning a few challenges to current conceptions of transculturalism that may arise in the wake of recent developments in the natural sciences, I end my remarks with a brief example of a possible intersection of literary studies and science. The essay engages three topics: (a) the question of culture; (b) transcultural participation; and (c) transcultural empathy and the sciences. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Transcultural Literary Interpretation: Theoretical Reflections with Examples from the Works of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and Johann Wolfgang Goethe
Humanities 2016, 5(3), 65; https://doi.org/10.3390/h5030065 - 30 Jul 2016
Cited by 1
Abstract
The present contribution explores the topic of literary interpretation from a transcultural perspective. We employ two dramas by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (Die Juden and Nathan der Weise) and one by Johann Wolfgang Goethe (Iphigenie auf Tauris) as models for [...] Read more.
The present contribution explores the topic of literary interpretation from a transcultural perspective. We employ two dramas by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (Die Juden and Nathan der Weise) and one by Johann Wolfgang Goethe (Iphigenie auf Tauris) as models for the investigation of intercultural and transcultural readings of literary texts. We first consider the epistemologies of Johann Martin Chladenius and Johann Gottfried Herder in order to distinguish between intercultural and transcultural studies. As a field of inquiry, transcultural literary studies does not employ one particular approach or advocate one specific method since it seeks to create new knowledge by opening up literary texts. For the first time, the article differentiates clearly between intercultural and transcultural studies and offers a clearer definition of transcultural spheres or spaces than has been advanced before. The critique of Karl-Josef Kuschel’s reading of Lessing’s Nathan der Weise opens up the literary-dramatic text to new possibilities. The field does not focus on what cultures do with human beings but with what different human beings do with culture. In sum, the transcultural dimensions of literary texts foster transcultural mentalities. They also have the potential to identify shared experiences and to develop common understandings while respecting the authenticity of difference. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Recasting the Significant: The Transcultural Memory of Alexander von Humboldt’s Visit to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
Humanities 2016, 5(3), 49; https://doi.org/10.3390/h5030049 - 01 Jul 2016
Abstract
Alexander von Humboldt was internationally known as a world traveler, having collected data and analyzed samples from five of the world’s seven continents. He spoke several languages fluently, and split most of his adult life between the cosmopolitan centers of Berlin and Paris. [...] Read more.
Alexander von Humboldt was internationally known as a world traveler, having collected data and analyzed samples from five of the world’s seven continents. He spoke several languages fluently, and split most of his adult life between the cosmopolitan centers of Berlin and Paris. The great deal of time Humboldt spent in Latin America, along with his staunch belief in human equality, led to his reverence in those countries. Indeed, Humboldt was a world citizen in the truest sense of the word. But what of the United States? What claim can this nation make to the heritage and legacy of the world-exploring baron? A brief stop in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. at the end of Humboldt’s expedition to the equatorial regions of the Americas seems to suffice. This short stay, along with the Humboldt-Jefferson correspondence, constitutes the great American link in Humboldt studies, a link whose nature and importance has, over the years, received an exaggerated amount of attention from authors writing for an American audience. The following analysis, using the tools of transcultural memory studies, investigates why this relatively insignificant event in a long and storied life assumes an inflated role in current accounts of the life and work of Alexander von Humboldt. Full article
Open AccessArticle
“I Felt Like My Life Had Been Given to Me to Start Over”: Alice Kaplan’s Language Memoir, French Lessons
Humanities 2016, 5(2), 47; https://doi.org/10.3390/h5020047 - 20 Jun 2016
Abstract
Alice Kaplan’s memoir French Lessons (1993) is a story that deals as much with the issue of language learning as with that of cultural belonging(s). This “language memoir,” as it is typical of this sub-genre, is an intimate tale of the transition between [...] Read more.
Alice Kaplan’s memoir French Lessons (1993) is a story that deals as much with the issue of language learning as with that of cultural belonging(s). This “language memoir,” as it is typical of this sub-genre, is an intimate tale of the transition between languages and cultures. French Lessons recounts her evolving relationship with French language and culture in various phases of her life: starting from childhood, continuing through her graduate student years at Yale and finally as professor of French at Duke. Soon, however, in this unconventional Bildung, the second language turns out to be a verbal safe-house, an instant refuge when her first language and culture happen to be too uncomfortable. Ultimately, French provides a psychic space and a hiding place. Ultimately, however, as Derrida has shown, we are alienated from both the first and the second; we find ourselves to be more comfortable in one than in the other. This essay will analyze such processes with special attention to the part played by the body in Kaplan’s building as a student and eventually as a teacher. The analysis will be linked with the text’s peculiar narrative style: fast-paced, with simple, concise sentences, nevertheless extremely effective and moving. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Joachim Heinrich Campe’s Robinson the Younger: Universal Moral Foundations and Intercultural Relations
Humanities 2016, 5(2), 45; https://doi.org/10.3390/h5020045 - 13 Jun 2016
Abstract
In his adaptation of Robinson Crusoe, Campe sets out to examine the legitimacy of his contemporary social reality (in Europe in the broadest sense) by tracing its origin back to the most basic roots conceivable. The experimental character of his book is [...] Read more.
In his adaptation of Robinson Crusoe, Campe sets out to examine the legitimacy of his contemporary social reality (in Europe in the broadest sense) by tracing its origin back to the most basic roots conceivable. The experimental character of his book is emphasised and—to an extent—explicitly introduced through the frame narrative which constitutes Campe’s most important addition to Defoe’s story: Here the emergence of the rules and routines are extensively mooted by the father (who relates Robinson’s story as a framed narrative) and his children who still have to internalise, grasp, and situate the moral rules around them and frequently offer divergent perspectives in the process. The frame narrative connects the moral “ontogeny” of the children to the “phylogenetics” of civilisation and suggests that both can be superimposed on one another. I will work with concepts that focus on the differentiation between “innate” moral characteristics and their social transformation on a cognitive, evolutionary level, from which Campe clearly deviates. However, his short-circuiting of the individual and the phylogeny leads to very similar specifications as laid out by, for instance, Moral Foundations Theory. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Re-discovering Alessandro Spina’s Transculture/ality in The Young Maronite
Humanities 2016, 5(2), 42; https://doi.org/10.3390/h5020042 - 09 Jun 2016
Abstract
Alessandro Spina, Basili Shafik Khouzam, was born in Benghazi in 1927 into a family of Maronites from Aleppo and spent most of his life between Libya and Italy, speaking several languages and writing in Italian. He may be described as the “unsung” [...] Read more.
Alessandro Spina, Basili Shafik Khouzam, was born in Benghazi in 1927 into a family of Maronites from Aleppo and spent most of his life between Libya and Italy, speaking several languages and writing in Italian. He may be described as the “unsung” writer of Italian colonial and post-colonial past in North Africa. Spina’s oeuvre—collected in an omnibus edition, I confini dell’ombra. In terra d’oltremare (Morcelliana)—charts the history of Libya from 1911, when Italy invaded the Ottoman province, to 1966, when the country witnessed the economic boom sparked by the petrodollars. The cycle was awarded the Premio Bagutta, Italy’s highest literary accolade. In 2015, Darf Press published in English the first instalment of Spina’s opus with the title The Confines of the Shadows. In Lands Overseas. Spina always refused to be pigeonholed in some literary category and to be labeled as a colonial or postcolonial author. As a matter of fact, his works go beyond the spatial and imaginary boundaries of a given state or genre, emphasizing instead the mixing and collision of languages, cultures, identities, and forms of writing. Reading and re-discovering Spina in a transcultural mode brings to light the striking newness of his literary efforts, in which transnational lived life, creative imagination, and transcultural sensibility are inextricably interlaced. Full article
Open AccessArticle
The Transnational Turn in African Literature of French Expression: Imagining Other Utopic Spaces in the Globalized Age
Humanities 2016, 5(2), 30; https://doi.org/10.3390/h5020030 - 18 May 2016
Abstract
This article focuses on African literature published since 2000 by authors of French expression. While contemporary authors’ subjects are varied—ranging from climate change, human rights, to ethnic cleansing—they also imagine new “what ifs” and other utopic spaces and places that extend beyond postcolonial, [...] Read more.
This article focuses on African literature published since 2000 by authors of French expression. While contemporary authors’ subjects are varied—ranging from climate change, human rights, to ethnic cleansing—they also imagine new “what ifs” and other utopic spaces and places that extend beyond postcolonial, Africa-as-victim paradigms. Literarily, authors such as Abdelaziz Belkhodja (Tunisia) and Abdourahman A. Waberi (Djibouti) have effectuated a transnational turn. In this literary transnational turn, Africa is open to new interpretations by the African author that are very different from the more essentialist-based, literary-philosophical movements such as Negritude and pan-Africanism; cornerstones of the postcolonial literary frameworks of the past. Belkhodja and Waberi offer original narratives for Africa that, while describing their countries as utopias, also traverse the very dystopic realities of our time. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Transculturalism and the Meaning of Life
Humanities 2016, 5(2), 25; https://doi.org/10.3390/h5020025 - 26 Apr 2016
Abstract
I begin by introducing the standoff between the transculturalist aim of moving beyond cultural inheritances, and the worry that this project is itself a product of cultural inheritances. I argue that this is rooted in concerns about the meaning of life, and in [...] Read more.
I begin by introducing the standoff between the transculturalist aim of moving beyond cultural inheritances, and the worry that this project is itself a product of cultural inheritances. I argue that this is rooted in concerns about the meaning of life, and in particular, the prospect of nihilism. I then distinguish two diametrically opposed humanistic responses to nihilism, post-Nietzschean rejections of objective truth, and the moral objectivism favoured by some analytic philosophers, claiming that both attempt, in different ways, to break down the distinction between description and evaluation. I argue that the evaluative sense of a “meaningful life” favoured by moral objectivists cannot track objective meaningfulness in human lives, and that there are manifest dangers to treating social meaning judgements as a secular substitute for the meaning of life. I then conclude that the problems of the post-Nietzscheans and moral objectivists can be avoided, and the transculturalist standoff alleviated, if we recognise that nihilism is descriptive, and maintain a principled distinction between description and evaluation. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Transcultural Experiences in the Late Middle Ages: The German Literary Discourse on the Mediterranean World—Mirrors, Reflections, and Responses
Humanities 2015, 4(4), 676-701; https://doi.org/10.3390/h4040676 - 20 Oct 2015
Abstract
As recent scholarship has demonstrated, the world of the Mediterranean exerted a tremendous influence not only on the societies and cultures bordering the Mediterranean Sea during the late Middle Ages, but had a huge influence on the mentality and culture of the world [...] Read more.
As recent scholarship has demonstrated, the world of the Mediterranean exerted a tremendous influence not only on the societies and cultures bordering the Mediterranean Sea during the late Middle Ages, but had a huge influence on the mentality and culture of the world north of the Alps as well because it was here where East and West met, exchanged ideas and products, and struggled to find, despite many military conflicts, some kind of transcultural. The highly complex conditions in the Mediterranean realm represented significant challenges and promises at the same time, and no traveler from Germany or England, for instance, whether a merchant or a pilgrim, a diplomat or an artist, could resist responding to the allure of the Mediterranean cultures. The corpus of travelogues and pilgrimage accounts is legion, as scholars have noted already for quite some time. But we can also observe literary reflections on the Mediterranean especially during the fifteenth century. The emergence of the late medieval and early modern prose novel is often predicated on transcultural experiences, whether they entailed military conflicts or peaceful encounters between Christians and Muslims. These literary texts did not necessarily respond to the historical events, such as the fall of Constantinople in 1453, but they document an intriguing opening up of German, English, French, and Flemish, etc., society to the Mediterranean world. The prose novels discussed in this paper demonstrate that Germany, in particular, was a significant hinterland of the Mediterranean; somewhat farther apart, but still closely connected. The literary evidence will allow us to identify how those transcultural encounters were recognized and then dealt with. Full article

Other

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Open AccessEssay
Transcultural Space and the Writer
Humanities 2016, 5(2), 28; https://doi.org/10.3390/h5020028 - 05 May 2016
Abstract
(1) As a long time writer, I always found, even before I began to publish, that my work was difficult to categorise, even while categories seemed essential for publication, reception and visibility. (2) In this personal essay, I apply the notion of the [...] Read more.
(1) As a long time writer, I always found, even before I began to publish, that my work was difficult to categorise, even while categories seemed essential for publication, reception and visibility. (2) In this personal essay, I apply the notion of the transcultural to a short writing [auto]biography. The methodology adopted for this purpose is a form of autoethnography: “a form of self-reflection and writing that explores the researcher’s personal experience and connects this autobiographical story to wider cultural, political, and social meanings and understandings”1 to explore how my immigrant background and transcultural lived experience is reflected in my creative writing, and to give an account of how my literary output has been placed in various but always restrictive pre-existing categories. I am also encouraged by Mikhail Epstein’s proposed “scriptorics”, the study of the one who writes Each section of the essay is divided into two: the first sections provide a succinct version of the issues in a developing writer’s life, framed by the need for the practice and production to “belong” somewhere; the second sections take them to a posited “Transcultural Space” where the work seems more authentically to have originated and in which it seems to be more perceptively read. (3) The result is not so much a conventional academic article as a fiction writer’s reflection on her work in the embrace of an inclusive and meaning-making realm. Full article
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