American World Literature

A workshop featuring talks and conversations by thirteen distinguished scholars from across the United States


Fields of Knowledge
  • Pedagogy
  • Philosophy / Theory
  • Public culture

Organizing Institutions

Slought, The Society for Critical Exchange, Theory Reading Group of Temple University's English Department, University of Houston-Victoria.


Jeffrey R. Di Leo and Daniel T. O'Hara

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought is pleased to announce "American World Literature" from Friday, February 5 to Saturday, February 6, 2016 from 9:00am-7:00pm. This workshop, which will feature talks and conversations by thirteen distinguished scholars from across the United States, has been organized by Slought, The Society for Critical Exchange–the first and longest existing such society for the study and promotion of theory in the US–the Theory Reading Group of Temple University's English Department, and the University of Houston–Victoria.

"American World Literature" refers to the intersections of the global dimensions of American literature and its representations of itself in the larger world, with other literatures in English, whether originally so or via the commercial culture of rapid and pervasive translation. What does it mean, for instance, that Henry James's Golden Bowl is being read alongside Gilgamesh? Is this a moment of great opportunity, provocative challenge, or scholarly self-promotion? Is a new canon emerging, or is this the uprising of the multitude against the empire? What exactly is happening to critical humanistic studies with respect to American literatures?

The premise of this workshop is that World Literature is American Literature insofar as the former appears overwhelmingly in US-based translations and is used to reconfigure American texts. Instead of the small number of mythic tropes used in American studies--the New World Adam, the Garden and the Machine, the American Dream and Self-Made Man--there are now templates derived from other texts from around the world, but without nuanced understanding of original languages and their cultures.

What does this near monopoly and repression of original languages do to readings of World Literature? Some are calling for scholars to forget English language and literature, as if the new focus on World Literature means the languages and literatures of other cultures will dominate discussion from now on. The reality of the current and foreseeable situation makes necessary new interrogations and comparative analyses of American authors and texts, as well as of World literature itself.

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Emily Apter is Chair of Comparative Literature at New York University. She is the author of many books, including Against World Literature: On The Politics of Untranslatability and The Translation Zone: A New Comparative Literature.

Jonathan Arac is Mellon Professor of English and Founding Director of the Humanities Center at the University of Pittsburgh. His next book will be Against Americanistics, and he is exploring the "Age of the Novel" in the U.S.

Jeffrey R. Di Leo is Dean of Arts & Sciences and Professor of English and Philosophy at the University of Houston-Victoria. He is also Executive Director of SCE. His books include Corporate Humanities in Higher Education: Moving Beyond the Neoliberal Academy and Turning the Page: Book Culture in the Digital Age.

Robert L. Caserio, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Penn State University, is the author of two books and some sixty essays about English and American literature. His book The Cambridge Introduction to British Fiction,1900-1950 is forthcoming.

Peter Hitchcock is Professor of English at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of CUNY. He is also Associate Director of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics. His most recent book is The Long Space: Transnationalism and Postcolonial Form.

Aaron Jaffe is a Professor of English at the University of Louisville and Director of the Commonwealth Center for the Humanities and Society. He has published extensively on modern and contemporary literature and cultural theory, including Modernism and the Culture of Celebrity and The Way Things Go: An Essay on the Matter of Second Modernism.

Tracy McNulty is Chair of Comparative Literature at Cornell University. She is the author of The Hostess: Hospitality, Femininity, and the Expropriation of Identity and Wrestling with the Angel: Experiments in Symbolic Life.

Christian Moraru is Professor of English at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. His books include The Planetary Turn: Relationality and Geoaesthetics in the Twenty-First Century (coedited with Amy J. Elias) and Reading for the Planet: Toward a Geomethodology.

Daniel T. O'Hara, Professor of English and Inaugural Mellon Professor of Humanities at Temple University, is the author and editor or co-editor of fifteen books in modern literature and critical theory. His book Virginia Woolf and the Modern Sublime: The Invisible Tribunal is forthcoming.

Donald E. Pease is the Ted & Helen Geisel and Founding Director of the Futures of American Studies Institute at Dartmouth. The editor or co-editor of 10 volumes, Pease is the author of Visionary Compacts: American Renaissance Writings in Cultural Context and The New American Exceptionalism.

Gabriel Rockhill is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University and Director of the Critical Theory Workshop in Paris. He has published widely on the themes of history, politics and aesthetics, including Radical History & the Politics of Art and Logique de l'histoire.

Jean-Michel Rabaté is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, a curator of Slought Foundation, and an editor of the Journal of Modern Literature. He has authored or edited more than thirty books on modernism, psychoanalysis and philosophy.

Alan Singer writes on aesthetics, literary theory, and visual arts. He is the author of several books that explore the vital reciprocity between aesthetic value/experience and human agency, most recently The Self-Deceiving Muse: Notice and Knowledge in the Work of Art.