World Authors and Translators in the Global Circulation of Capital

2 & 3 July 2015

You can read the conference report on this event HERE.

Watch the video of Rebecca Braun’s introductory talk opening discussions at our latest conference ‘World Authors and Translators in the Global Circulation of Capital’ at Lancaster University 2-3 July. You can find the video here

800px-Blue_Marble_Eastern_HemisphereWhat are the economic, political, legal, and technological processes underpinning how authors act on the contemporary global stage, and does it make sense to talk about such a thing as a ‘world author’? This event invites participants to reflect on the social function of authors and translators in the circulation of literature in a global economy. Our research papers consider how recent developments in the commodification of literature have transformed traditional conceptions of the author as an autonomous, but primarily textual, agent, as well as questioned the relationships between ‘minor’, ‘national’ and ‘world’ literatures that individual authors and their translators are still frequently made to represent. Three short-paper panels encourage comparative discussion of individual case studies in the light of our research papers. A round-table with industry specialists concludes the event by presenting the very real practical and legal intercultural issues that determine how authors and their foreign-language rights circulate in the contemporary global publishing industry.

 Co-organised with Delphine Grass.


Venue: Lancaster House Hotel conference centre, Green Lane, Lancaster, LA1 4GJ

Thursday 2 July

9:15 – 9:30: Welcome – Rebecca Braun

9:30 – 10:30: Aleida Assmann (Konstanz), ‘Sermons for Peace — The Writer as a Public Institution’

10:30-11:30 Panel: Authority, Authorship and the Global Market

Anna-Katharina Krüger (Munich), ‘“Because I was not a writer…” — Authority and Authorship in Dave Eggers’ What is the What

Katy Stewart (Sheffield), ‘Ondjaki/Ndalu de Almeida: Negotiating Cultural Identity on a Global Stage’

Joanna Neilly (Oxford), ‘A German Rousseau? Karl Gutzkow’s Jean Jacques in the Capitalist Market’

 11:30-12:30 Coffee & discussion

12:30- 13:30: Anne Barron (London) ‘Credit, Voice and Royalties’

13:30 – 14:30 Lunch

14:30-15:30: Panel: Political Translations of Authorship

Nathalie Carré (Paris), ‘Major Writers in Minor Languages: Ngugi wa Thiongo’s Case, from Gikuyu to French’

Alex Harrington (Durham), ‘Anglophone Life-Writing on Anna Akhmatova and the Dynamics of the Myth of

the Russian Poet in Russia and the West’

Sandra Mayer (Oxford), ‘Continental Reputation Equalling Posthumous Fame? Disraeli’s Literary and Political Celebrity in an International Context’

 15:30-16:30 Tea and discussion

16:30 – 17:30: Plenary session

19:00: Dinner

20:30: Poetry reading with Mazen Maarouf

 Mazen Maarouf is a Palestinian-Icelandic poet and writer, lauded as a ‘rising international literary star’. He has published three collections of poetry: The Camera Doesn’t Capture BirdsOur Grief Resembles Bread, and most recently An Angel Suspended On The Clothesline, which has been translated into several languages including into French by Samira Negrouche (Amandier Poésie, 2013). His work is currently being translated into English by Kareem James Abu-Zeid and Nathalie Handal.

 Friday 3 July

9:30-10.30: Benedict Schofield (London), The Global Shakespeare? National Authorship, Transnational Appropriation, and “Doubly Translated” Shakespeare’


11:00-13.00: Interactive round table: ‘What is a World Author?’

With Alessandro Gallenzi (Alma Books), Gesche Ipsen (Pushkin Press), Charlotte Ryland (New Books in German), Frank Wynne (freelance translator from the French and the Spanish), Mazen Maarouf (author), Sridhara Aghalaya (literary agent)

13:00-14:00: Lunch

14:00-15:00: Panel: Embodiment, Authenticity and Authorship

 Caroline Summers (Leeds), ‘Discursive Dismemberment: Fragmenting Authorship in the “Body” of the Translated Text’

Kate Roy (Leeds/Lugano), ‘Paratextual Politics — Global Images, the Visual Plane, and the “Authentic Author” in the Textual History of the Memoiren einer arabischen Prinzessin

Emily Spiers (Lancaster), ‘”My body is a storm cloud waiting to burst”: Authorship, Authenticity, and Cross-Cultural Mobility in Performance Poetry’

15:00-16:00: Susan Bassnett, (Warwick), ‘The Power of Rewritings’


16:00-17:00: Small group discussions


 Abstracts and biographies

Aleida_Assmann_(14016269326)Aleida Assmann is Professor of English Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Konstanz, Germany. Her research interests include the history and media theory of reading and writing, cultural concepts of time and historical anthropology. A central and ongoing focus of her research has been the study of memory as an individual, collective and cultural phenomenon, including literary representations of trauma. Recent publications include Arts of Memory andMemory in a Global Age, which she co-edited with Sebastian Conrad.

‘Sermons for Peace – The writer as a public institution’

Every October on the last Sunday of the Frankfurt Book Fair a writer is chosen to raise his or her voice in the Frankfurt Paulskirche to speak about recent works and to comment thereby on the moral state of the world. This institution of the annual ‘Peace Prize’, sponsored by the German Book Trade, offers a unique space and time for (mainly) literary writers from all over the world to stand up as public intellectuals intervening in the realm of global politics and more often than not speaking for those who have no voice and attract no attention.  I will look into the history of this institution which started in West Germany in the early 1950s and comment on this annual outstanding event that has become the most important public platform in this country, for celebrating and elevating global authors.

Susan Bassnett photoSusan Bassnett is Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Warwick and has just been appointed Special Adviser in Translation Studies for a 3 year period attached to the School of Modern Languages and Cultures.

‘The Power of Rewritings’
This paper considers ways in which translation,one of the many forms of rewriting, has had an impact on different literary and cultural systems around the world. As we move away from looking at literature in terms of national ‘roots’ and ‘origins’ to a perception of the movement of texts in terms of global flows, so the role of translation can be seen as having been far more significant that has generally been recognised. Translation is much more than the transfer of texts across linguistic boundaries; it is a complex process, involving different agencies and affecting the balance of power that exists between cultures. This paper starts with the premise that translation is a vital activity in today’s world, an activity that is never innocent since it involves various forms of textual manipulation and in consequence, is highly charged ideologically.



anne-b1Anne Barron‘s research at the LSE is critical and interdisciplinary, seeking to integrate methods and frameworks drawn from philosophy, social theory and critical political economy into the study of legal concepts and legal theory. Current research centres principally on the relationship between intellectual property, information capitalism and the public sphere. Some of her recent work draws on critical political economy to explore the role of the copyright system in underpinning the profitability of the culture and information industries, and in shaping the major cultural forms (visual art, music and film) that organise artistic expression within today’s cultural public spheres.

‘Credit, Voice and Royalties’
This paper aims to explore the role of intellectual property law and practice in the processes by which literary products circulate in a global economy, thereby enabling (some) authors to become ‘world’ authors. A premise of the paper is that the global publishing industry exhibits a similar logic to that of other creative industries in that its profitability depends on ‘big hits’, which in turn depend on tightly controlling the reproduction,distribution and marketing – but not necessarily the creation – of its products. If copyrights are the key legal mechanisms for regulating the making and movement of cultural commodities (books, in this context) so that only authorised copies are available to consumers all over the world, trademarks underpin the marketing strategies that cause at least some of these commodities to sell in large quantities; moreover, both copyrights and trademarks are simultaneously territorial and globalised, so that cultural commodities can be tailored for national markets yet be protected from misappropriation to an equivalent extent wherever they are in the world. In these respects copyright and trademarks interoperate to safeguard the investments of the global mega-corporations that dominate the publishing industry today. But how is the author constructed by these regimes? To answer that question, the paper will seek to show how intellectual property systems intersect today not only with each other but with wider social, economic and cultural forces that construct the author as both a worker and an object of work, an origin and an artefact, a creator and a brand.



Benedict Schofield is Head of German at King’s College London. He is currently working on a monograph, A Moral Compass, which considers the depiction of Germany and Austria in contemporary American fiction, and is co-editing two volumes exploring German-language culture in transnational contexts: German in the World, and the German volume in the series Cultural Translation Studies. He also works on European Shakespeare, including chapters on international Shakespeare festivals, and the German myth of ‘unser Shakespeare’. He is the author of Private Lives and Collective Destinies: Class, Nation and Folk in the Works of Gustav Freytag, as well as various journal articles and book chapters, and has co-edited the volumes The German Bestseller in the Late Nineteenth Century and The Racehorse of Genius: Literary and Cultural Comparisons.

‘The Global Shakespeare? National Authorship, Transnational Appropriation, and “Doubly Translated” Shakespeare’

To what extent can we still view Shakespeare as an ‘author’, given the wider cultural industry that now shapes Shakespeare’s legacy, not only in the UK, but across Europe and the globe? Are Shakespeare’s texts still of any significance in the face of the many performance traditions through which he is disseminated, or given the seemingly unstoppable tide of new Shakespeare translations? If Shakespeare is no longer an author, nor even the origin of Shakespearean performance, then what is his status beyond that of a cipher or brand, circulating in a global cultural economy that selects, adapts and appropriates Shakespeare seemingly at will?  This paper considers these questions by focusing on the ways in which the national myths projected on Shakespeare in England and Germany are both challenged and sustained by Shakespeare’s status as a ‘world author’, and the mechanisms by which different national traditions circulate across borders and increasingly impact on and inform each other.

The paper will open by considering the competing claims of the English and Germans over Shakespeare as their national poet. What strains are placed on such local appropriations of author-figures such as Shakespeare when they enter into transnational circulation? It will then consider some of the mechanisms – in particular the ‘double translation’ of Shakespeare, both in terms of language, and in terms of performance tradition – that support his global flow. Here attention will focus on German productions within the Globe to Globe Festival of 2012, when German-language Shakespeare was staged within a framework at once local (the London 2012 Festival), national (the UK Cultural Olympiad) and global (the 2012 Olympics). How do such stagings of Shakespeare both celebrate his interculturality, yet also awaken cultural anxieties? The paper will conclude by exploring further the status of Shakespeare as the ‘author’ or ‘origin’ of his texts, by considering the increasingly significant role of directors as ‘authors’ of Shakespeare productions. Here focus will fall on the German director Thomas Ostermeier, and the extent to which the directorial persona of Ostermeier has become conflated with the myth of a radicalized German Shakespeare, allowing for and supporting its wider dissemination outside of Germany through a transnational personality cult of the director. Ultimately, the paper will question what balance can be struck between cultural dominance and a vigorous and often inspiring level of cultural translation, when Shakespeare ‘goes global’.

mazMazen Maarouf is a Palestinian-Icelandic poet and writer, lauded as a “rising international literary star”. He has published three collections of poetry: The Camera Doesn’t Capture Birds, Our Grief Resembles Bread, and most recently An Angel Suspended On The Clothesline, which has been translated into several languages including into French by Samira Negrouche (Amandier Poésie, 2013). His work is currently being translated into English by Kareem James Abu-Zeid and Nathalie Handal. Maarouf has read in festivals, universities, museums and cultural centers in Europe, the United States and the Middle East. He has written literary and theatre criticism in various Arabic magazines and newspapers namely An-Nahar and Assafir (Lebanon), Al-Quds-el-Arabi (London) and Qantara (Paris); and he has translated numerous Icelandic poets as well as the following novels in Arabic: The Blue Fox by Sjón, Hands of my Father by Myron Uhlberg, The Story of the Blue Planet by Andri Snær Magnason and Dwarfstone by Aðalsteinn Ásberg. He resides in Reykjavik.

Anna BilderAnna-Katharina Krüger is working towards her PhD in Munich, Germany. Her Master’s dissertation contributed to postcolonial debates about the representation of subaltern voices by particularly concentrating on the creation and marketing of “indigenous authorship” and “marginality” as goods on the global book market.

 ‘“Because I was not a writer…” — Authority and Authorship in Dave Eggers’ What is the What

Books and authors circulate, driven by institutional and political forces, in a space often identified as the ‘global market’, the field where writing and authorship is created, negotiated, and traded. The dynamics of this ‘global’ literary market are often perceived as a battlefield where voices strain to be heard, and where commerce conspires with the needs of self-expression and self-promotion. My paper focuses on how marginalised voices enter this global book market and can become globally published authors. As a case study I will use Dave Eggers’ What is the What, a fictionalised autobiography about child soldier Valentino Achak Deng which comments on the genre of testimonial literature and its delicate authorship situation. The text presents itself as a struggle where the legal author and the protagonist/narrator are decidedly not the same person: The claim to authority and authorship is made by two competing agents, critically reflecting on the production mechanism of the genre and its authorship.

Katy StewartKaty Stewart is a postgraduate student in the Hispanic Department at the University of Sheffield. Her interests in authorship focus on the critical constructions of ‘African’, ‘Lusophone’ and ‘Francophone’ canons of film and literature. Her research explores the burdens of responsibility on creative artists within those systems, particularly when their work is disseminated globally, and the expectations that international audiences have for work within these canons.

‘Ondjaki/Ndalu de Almeida: Negotiating Cultural Identity on a Global Stage’

With a stylized nom de plume and a clutch of awards from Portugal and Brazil, as well as his native Angola, Ondjaki (Ndalu de Almeida) is widely regarded as a rising star of African literature. Educated in Lisbon and living in Rio de Janeiro, his international credentials lead critics to position him within a globalized context. This paper will explore how Ondjaki, the persona, is represented on the global stage, arguing that the universal theme of childhood which is recurrent in his work is used to provide a safe, distant space for an international audience to encounter Angola. This persona contrasts with Ndalu de Almeida, the writer, who expresses his desire to be seen as Angolan, writing in Angolan, rather than an “African of Portuguese expression”. It will be demonstrated that in the negotiation of an international persona, there is a human price of cultural identity to be paid.

Joanna_Neilly_Photobook_croppedJoanna Neilly is a Lecturer in German at The Queen’s College, Oxford. She is currently working on a project entitled ‘The Rise of the German Author: Literary Myths and Models from Romanticism to Empire’. The project analyses a persistent phenomenon of German literary production from 1770-1914: the fictionalization of real-life authors in drama and prose fiction. She examines both the presentation of the author as a new sort of myth for German nationalism, and depictions of the material, intellectual, and creative struggles faced by authors in a changing market.

‘A German Rousseau? Karl Gutzkow’s Jean Jacques in the Capitalist Market’

One hundred years after Rousseau shot to fame (and infamy) with his Dijon Academy Prize-winning essay, Karl Gutzkow retold this episode and its consequences in the novella Jean Jacques (1854). As one of Germany’s earliest professional writers, Gutzkow consistently had one eye on the demands and practices of the book industry. His sympathetic portrayal of Rousseau thus serves two purposes. First, Gutzkow’s own history as a scandalous writer, and his determinedly progressive stance, find expression via the story of a maligned author who was posthumously revered, so that Jean Jacques is at least in part a product of self-promotion. Second, within the context of a modern, capitalist system of literary production, Gutzkow compares the moral outrage that dogged Rousseau in pre-Revolutionary Europe to the material restrictions that could hamper German authors’ progress in a newly profit-driven market. Jean Jacques thus moves beyond the person of Rousseau and becomes part of a wider criticism of what Adorno would later term the ‘culture industry’.

Nathalie Carré, ‘Major Writers in Minor Languages: Ngugi wa Thiongo’s Case, from Gikuyu to French’

For authors, translation is a major tool to achieve – if not global at least international – recognition. But all languages are not equal and some of them are drastically under-represented on the translation market. African languages are a blatant example of this situation: most of the times, African writers have no other choices than to switch to European languages (as French or English) when they want to publish. But there are exceptions, and sometimes quite impressive ones.

For this session, I would like to focus on an author who, being a strong supporter of African languages – and writing in his mother-tongue Gikuyu – is also regularly shortlisted for the Nobel Prize for Literature since a few years. How translation has become a major tool of not only ‘personal recognition’ but also of promotion of a ‘minor’ language? I will look at this case, mostly focusing on translation to French.

Alex_Harrigton_webAlex Harrington is a Senior Lecturer in Russian in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, Durham University. Her research on Anna Akhmatova has led to several recent and forthcoming publications which explore Akhmatova’s sophisticated self-fashioning and examine the factors which enabled her assumption of a pre-eminent position in the Russian literary canon and rendered her a cultural icon.  Alex is currently working on a book-length study of Russian literary fame, with a particular focus on the Soviet era.

‘Anglophone Life-Writing on Anna Akhmatova and the Dynamics of the Myth of the Russian Poet in Russia and the West’

This paper begins with a critical overview of biographies of Anna Akhmatova in English and examines how she is marketed in the West more generally.  The only substantial, scholarly biographies of this famous Russian poet published to date are by Anglophone writers. They can be seen to conform to Western fantasies of the Russian writer as martyr/prophet, adopting a reverential and uncritical approach to their subject, thereby rendering a complex individual – and the literary field in which she operated – rather simplified and one-dimensional. This is particularly noteworthy because these biographies perpetuate a melodramatic and reductive presentation of her experience that was instituted by Akhmatova herself. The paper goes on to explore the cultural context that informed Akhmatova’s strategies of self-presentation, and to examine the recalibration of her emblematic significance as moral exemplar and the nation’s greatest female poet that is taking place in both scholarship and Russian popular culture as a direct reaction to these strategies and the biographical enterprise they engendered.

IMG_0330aSandra Mayer is an Erwin Schrödinger Research Fellow (Austrian Science Fund) at the University of Oxford’s English Faculty and Wolfson College. She is working on a project that is situated at the crossroads of celebrity and authorship studies and focuses on Benjamin Disraeli’s dual career as a literary celebrity and celebrity politician. She is particularly interested in the strategies employed by Disraeli in the construction and performance of his twin public personae throughout his life and their impact on his (posthumous) reputation. Her project contributes to exploring the interrelations between literary marketplace, authorship, politics, media, and public sphere within the specific historical context of Victorian Britain. Sandra is currently in the process of organising a one-day interdisciplinary symposium on the theme of “The Many Lives of Benjamin Disraeli: Fame, Legacy, Representations” in co-operation with the TORCH Celebrity Research Network on 24 March 2015.

 ‘Continental Reputation Equalling Posthumous Fame? Disraeli’s Literary and Political Celebrity in an International Context’

By the 1870s, Benjamin Disraeli’s fame both as a bestselling novelist and venerable elder statesman had reached the international dimension that has since become one of the yardsticks for defining and categorising celebrity phenomena across historical periods. Lothair (1870) and Endymion (1880), the two novels published in the wake of his first and second terms as Prime Minister respectively, reached soaring sales figures in Britain and the US, were immediately and widely translated into other European languages, and captured the popular imagination, which is evidenced by a substantial number of ‘fan letters’ from all over the world.

This paper takes the case study of Disraeli and the very personal responses to his extraordinary dual career by ordinary members of the public as a starting point for reflecting on the historical dimensions of celebrity authorship in an international context. It argues that it was the life-long conflation of Disraeli’s literary and political fame that crucially shaped his reputation as one of the most eminent nineteenth-century public figures.

Caroline_SummersCaroline Summers is Lecturer in Comparative Literary Translation at the University of Leeds. Her AHRC-funded doctoral research was entitled ‘What Remains of Christa Wolf? The Author-Function as a Translated Narrative’, and examined shifts in authorial identity that occur as a result of the translation process.  Her research focuses on sociological approaches to literary translation, especially the construction of authorship. She also has experience as a freelance translator.


‘Discursive Dismemberment: Fragmenting Authorship in the “Body” of the Translated Text’

Roland Barthes describes how the physiognomy of the public figure amounts to a ‘forest of signs’ that constitute the individual’s public identity.  For the writer it is also the ‘body’ of her work and of each individual text that provides a locus of identity, especially in the case of translated writers who are physically absent from the discourses in which their texts are read.  However, while the concept of the body suggests coherence and wholeness, the inevitable processes of selection, recontextualisation and reinterpretation that shape translated literature mean that growing global recognition represents increasing fragmentation of the author‘s identity, through intervention in the bodies of her texts by those who ensure their passage across cultural and linguistic boundaries.

In this case study, archival material and English translations of the writing of East German author Christa Wolf demonstrate how the physical body of the text and its paratexts constitute a contested space in which authorship is reconstructed.  In particular, Wolf’s translated authorship has been characterised by a tendency to focus selectively on ‘dismembered’ aspects of her authorship, in isolation from a wider understanding of her writing.

kate royKate Roy is a Visiting Lecturer at Franklin University Switzerland and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Leeds. Her interest in authorship, and in particular in the manipulation of difference and the figure of the author, is part of a wider focus on writing and the ‘politics of private’ – in other words, how German-language writers from Muslim cultural backgrounds strategically manipulate ‘expected’ (auto)biographies to write family histories into German (and European) history. The flipside of this strategy is its reception, where Roy explores how the text’s publication and paratextual apparatus can paradoxically work to refigure the author’s difference as the filter through which the text is ultimately ‘read’ as it is inserted into the public space

‘Paratextual Politics — Global Images, the Visual Plane, and the “Authentic Author” in the Textual History of the Memoiren einer arabischen Prinzessin

My paper uses the idea of the face and body of the author in changing contexts to explore the centrality of the ‘politics’ of author image – as part of the physical text – to the globalisation of Arab-German writer Emily Ruete’s late-nineteenth century autobiography Memoiren einer arabischen Prinzessin (Memoirs of an Arabian Princess, 1886), linking these dynamics to the marketing of texts by Muslim women in the present. Employing textual theorist Jerome McGann’s notion of the material text as social act that models the dynamics of the network(s) in which it occurs, I explore how the staging of the image of Ruete that has always accompanied the text has been continually manipulated to commodify author and text as known genre ‘brands’, feeding a reading field that has the potential to ‘captur[e] through the I/eye’ (Booth 2010). The paper draws on the text’s German reprint and on its English and Arabic translations.

Emily SpiersEmily Spiers is Research Associate at the Authors and the World hub. Her research into authorship focuses on spoken-word poetry in the Anglophone and German-language contexts. Underpinning her work is the question  of  how authors ‘embody’ literature, in their biographical person as well as in their literary texts. Emily’s interest in embodied performance focuses on the  ways in which spoken word has been connected historically with notions of marginal identity, authenticity and protest culture.

‘”My body is a storm cloud waiting to burst”: Authorship, Authenticity, and Cross-Cultural Mobility in Performance Poetry’

This paper explores performance poetry in relation to notions of embodiment and authenticity synonymous with the performative space. It asks what happens when the performer/author figure begins to circulate as an artefact coterminous with her work across cultural and linguistic boundaries. What role do the facets of literary publishing – such as print culture, literary prizes, language and translation – play in the transnational visibility and critical recognition of performance poets and their work?


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