A huge thank you!

The NCLN would like to extend its warm thanks to all speakers and attendees at our third annual symposium (Saturday 28th October). We were overwhelmed by the quality of all the papers, and were enthused to see such great discussions engendered by all panels. Thank you for making it such a welcoming and intellectually stimulating atmosphere. We hope to work with may of you again in the near future.

You can read a report of the day here.

With many thanks and best wishes,

The Organising Committee


NCLN symposium 28/10/17: Draft Programme now available!

The third Northern Comparative Literature Network symposium, ‘Of Borders and Ecologies: Comparative Literature and the Environment’, will be held on 28th October 2017 at the School of English, Birmingham City University. The symposium will bring together scholars working on questions of the Environment and its representation in Comparative and World Literature.

We are delighted to present our draft conference programme. The day will begin with a keynote paper from Professor Paul March-Russell from the University of Kent, and will continue with a variety of papers delivered by scholars from Universities across the north of the UK, the Midlands, and Ireland. We look forward to what promises to be a fascinating and intellectually stimulating day.

Attendance at the conference is free, but places are limited. To register your attendance, please contact our communications co-ordinator, Jade Douglas at jl10jmd@leeds.ac.uk, stating your name, affiliation and position (MA, PhD, ECR etc.)

Draft Programme:

9.30 Registration

10.00 – 10.45


Paul March-Russell, University of Kent

Combined and Uneven Developments: World Literature and Ecocriticism


10.45 – 11.00 Discussion
11.00 – 11.10 Break (10 min)
11.10 Panel I: World-ecology, Neoliberalism and World Literature
11.10 – 11.30 Rebecca Duncan, University of Stirling

Enclosure and Oikeios in Contemporary South African Eco-Fiction: Thinking between Natures with Henrietta Rose-Innes


11.30 – 11.50 Jade Douglas, University of Leeds

Narratives of the ‘Capitalocene’: Nellja Veremej’s Nach dem Sturm as ‘World-Ecological Literature


11.50 – 12.10 Tom Lubek, University of York

Life Put to Work: Neo-Slave Narrative, Irrealist Aesthetics, and World-Ecological Biopolitics in Nnedi Okorafor’s The Book of Phoenix


12.10 – 12.40 Discussion
12.40 Lunch (One hour)
13.40 Panel II: Animality, Gender and the Body
13.40 – 14.00 Peter Arnds, Trinity College Dublin

Wolf Wars: Metaphor, Migration and the Politics of a Predator in World Literature

14.00 – 14.20 Sara Khalil, Durham University

Intersectionality and the Deconstruction of the Woman/Animal Dualism: An Ecofeminist Reading of Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Alice Walker’s The Temple of My Familiar

14.20 – 14.40 Kate Lewis Hood, University of Edinburgh

Toxic poetics: Jennifer Scappettone’s The Republic of Exit 43 and Khairani Barokka’s Indigenous Species

14.40 – 15.10 Discussion
15.10 Break (10 min)
15.20 Panel III: Postcolonial Ecologies
15.20 – 15.40 Miranda Jones, University of Birmingham

The combined approach: Reading Derek Walcott’s Omeros through an ecocritical and postcolonial lens

15.40 – 16.00 Sam LaVedrine, University of Nottingham

Measuring Ecological Contingency: Gary Snyder, Édouard Glissant, and Planetary Poetics of (Dis)Order

16.00 – 16.20 Hayley Toth, University of Leeds

Planetary Reading, or Making Friends with the Text

16.20 – 16.50 Discussion
17.00 Thanks and Close

Confirmed keynote: Paul March-Russell

The NCLN is pleased to announce that Paul March-Russell will be giving the keynote speech at our third annual symposium on: ‘Of Borders and Ecologies: Comparative Literature and the Environment’.

Paul is Specialist Associate Lecturer in Comparative Literature at the University of Kent, and he has published widely on postcolonialism, science fiction and romantic legacies – very often with a comparative spin. He also edits the science fiction journal Foundation.

Paul’s keynote speech is entitled: ‘Combined and Uneven Developments: World Literature and Ecocriticism’. An abstract for his speech can be found below:

This paper responds to the Warwick Research Collective’s ‘new theory of world-literature’ published in 2015.  There, the authors argue that world literature must be undergirded by a Marxist analysis that proffers a world-historical view of the unevenness in economic and cultural production.  The authors exemplify their argument by making comparisons with Franco Moretti’s application of Immanuel Wallerstein’s theory of world systems to literary development, and to the application of Energy Studies to literary analysis.  In this paper, I will broadly accept their argument but I will also contend that their criticism of Comparative Literature is misplaced.  Instead, I will show, via an analysis of how the discipline emerged, that their real target is the traditional Marxist bete noire of Formalism.  I will argue that Comparative Literature has already evolved beyond its Formalist inheritance and that part of this evolution has involved an engagement with Marxism.  Rather than proposing a ‘new theory of world literature’, I will argue that we need to draw upon the resources that Comparative Literature already offers scholars, and to apply them not so much to a Marxist analysis but an ecocritical one, in which the centrality of the human subject is questioned and the boundaries between ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ are disturbed.  Comparative Literature’s inherent questioning of national and linguistic borders, as well as the emphases upon translation and translocation, suggest an affinity with ecocritical theory that can advance the kind of world-historical view favoured by the Warwick Research Collective without the need for a revamping of Marxism or a demolition of the discipline.
We look forward to welcoming Paul to our symposium.

CFP for 3rd Annual NCLN symposium: ‘Of Borders and Ecologies: Comparative Literature and the Environment’

The Northern Comparative Literature Network are delighted to announce details of their 3rd annual symposium, which will be hosted by the School of English at Birmingham City University on the 28th October 2017. This year’s symposium is entitled: Of Borders and Ecologies: Comparative Literature and the Environment. 

Full details of the CFP can be found below, and a full Word document detailing this information can be found here: NCLN CFP 2017

CFP: ‘Of Borders and Ecologies: Comparative Literature and the Environment’

The environment does not respect borders. The effects of ecosystems’ degradation cross all boundaries, including those of nations, cultures and languages. Among the questions raised by contemporary ecocriticism is that of borders, especially perhaps, the limitations of anthropocentrism and the boundaries between the human and the non-human. In terms of literature and the environment, Timothy Clark has articulated the question along the following lines: Can anthropomorphism, the tendency to attribute human qualities to nature, offer a way of understanding the non-human environment, or is it a form of solipsism wholly determined by human consciousness? To problems of epistemology come questions of ethics: Does the Anthropocene require, as Timothy Morton’s writings on ‘hyperobjects’ suggest, an extension of ‘personhood’ to aspects of the non-human world? Meanwhile, renegotiations of Marx’s ecological thought have sought to recognise the unacknowledged labour of the natural world in capitalist value creation, thereby breaching the apparently closed borders of economic systems (Foster: 2000), whilst McKenzie Wark’s Molecular Red (2015) has attempted to broach the perceived gap between high theory and individual ecological praxis.

This one-day symposium, organised by the Northern Comparative Literature Network, invites papers that explore contemporary engagement with the environment in postcolonial, world and planetary literatures. How might Comparative Literature make a distinctive contribution to the understanding of literature and the environment? For this symposium, we are particularly interested in literary scholars working on questions of the environment and ecocriticism in the 20th and 21st centuries. Although it is not a strict requirement, preference may be given to comparative approaches that move across the boundaries of nationality, culture and language.

We are currently in talks with literary journals as we plan to publish a selection of papers delivered at the symposium in a themed issue (scheduled for publication before REF 2021).

Topics may include:

  • Planetary and World Literature
  • Hybrid and creole literatures
  • The unsettling of species boundaries and post-humanism
  • Romanticism, ecofeminism, postcolonial eco-justice, animal welfare and deep ecology.
  • Ecology vs ‘nature’
  • Planetary/world ecological history or memory, and its literary representation
  • ‘Eco-cosmopolitanism’ (Heise, 2009) and its representation in literature
  • Aesthetics, forms and themes of ‘world-ecological literature’ (Deckard, 2017)
  • The Anthropocene vs. ‘the Capitalocene’ (Moore, 2014)

We welcome abstracts and expressions of interest in NCLN from established scholars, postgraduates and researchers. Abstracts of 250 words for papers lasting around 20 minutes should be forwarded to Peter Jackson peter.jackson@bcu.ac.uk or Tom Knowles thomas.knowles@bcu.ac.uk by Monday 11 September 2017


Complab@Leeds event: ‘The Comparatist’s Toolbox’, 21st March 2017

Professor Shane Weller, University of Kent: “Comparative Literature and the Concept of World Literature”

On 21st March 2017, Complab@Leeds hosted Shane Weller, Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Kent. Professor Weller gave a presentation entitled “Comparative Literature and the Concept of World Literature”, in which he gave a brief overview of the history of the field of Comparative Literature, highlighted both the potential advantages and pitfalls of such a discipline, and finished by arguing that the work of Samuel Beckett is an exemplary instance of the tensions within the Comparative Literature field as we understand it.

Professor Weller opened with a series of questions, with which he intended to stimulate debate following his talk. He spoke of Comparative Literature as an ‘(in)discipline”, whose ability to bring scholars working in different fields together is both its strength and its potential curse. The benefits of an interdisciplinary field are of course apparent, however in such a situation how do we speak to all interests without losing ‘the concrete’?

Further points for discussion opened by Professor Weller included:

  • The terminology: ‘Comparative’ vs ‘World’ vs ‘Planetary’? What are the advantages and pitfalls of each term; what does each term imply?
  • Which literatures should be compared in comparative endeavours? How can we ever go about comparing all the world’s literatures?
  • Methodology: Comparative literature must obviously contain some element of the comparative, but it does not have a clearly defined object of study – what are the advantages and pitfalls of this?

Professor Weller then took us on a brief historical tour of the disciplines of Comparative and World Literature, which he argues dates back to the 2nd half of the 19 Century in the period after the Franco-Prussian War. Its aim, he argued, was to work through the antagonisms that led to nationalist tensions. From today’s perspective, in which we have not yet left the shadows of the 20th Century behind, can we say that this aim has ever been fulfilled by literature?

A brief history of the field of World Literature was given, starting with Goethe’s conception of the term in 1827 as the sum of all national literatures, but based ultimately on the ancient Greek literary tradition. In this conception, World Literature was a universal possession, taking the best elements of each respective national literature to create exemplary works that still bore resemblance to the Greek tradition. Moving through Marx and Engel’s focus on World Literature as that which circulates as common property between individual nations, Professor Weller showed how over time the conception of World Literature as that which has some element of the universal or the human (spirit) of mankind was challenged by conceptions of World Literature which focused on nominalist ideas of untranslatability, difference and alterity. This ‘nominalist turn’ is characterised by the work of scholars such as Pascale Casanova and, more recently, Emily Apter in her 2014 Against World Literature. Apter thus argued that the discipline evidenced a “curiously impassive treatment of ‘world’ and anemic planetary politics” in its promotion of identifying over differing.

Professor Weller finished by arguing that the work of Samuel Beckett is a good example of all the tensions held within the concept of ‘World Literature’: his works has ‘universal’ themes and is accessible through the abstractedness of his imaginary worlds; at the same time, there exists within his work cultural and linguistic tensions, the thematization of difference and elements of non-communication. In other words, his work is always somehow ‘foreign’, both to the so-called “foreign” and “source” culture. In conclusion, Professor Weller advanced a notion of World Literature as literature that is always ‘unrooted’, always mobile and always inherently ‘double’: it is foreign yet speaks to us; translatable and untranslatable; adaptable and not adaptable.


Complab@Leeds thanks Professor Weller for his fascinating talk, and the ensuing lively discussion. Their next event will be held on 25th April at 3pm in the School of English Alumni Room, the University of Leeds. The event is entitled ‘Uncertain Borders’ and will include a presentation by Anna Bernard from Kings College London.

‘Comparatists in Disguise’ Event at the University of Leeds (22/11/16)

Reported by Jade Douglas, the University of Leeds (jl10jmd@leeds.ac.uk)

The ‘Comparatists in Disguise’ open roundtable discussion was the first event led by the new ‘CompLab @ Leeds’ collective. The aim of this collective is to bring together PGRs, ECRs and staff who have a background in comparative literature, or who adopt a comparative approach in their research. It aims to create inter-school dialogue, and focuses on what it means to be a comparatist at a university today. It uses literature as a starting point to discuss wider questions relevant to the comparative approach in research today; as such, its focus is the methodology of comparative research rather than concentrating exclusively on literary analysis itself.

The ‘Comparatists in Disguise’ event took place on the 22nd November 2017 at the University of Leeds. Its aims were to foster debate amongst scholars working from a comparative angle, and to set discussion topics that will be covered in further detail in later events. Topics raised included: the role of literature in comparative studies; career perspectives of PGRs in the area of Comparative Studies; where interdisciplinary fits in comparative studies; where comparative studies sit within universities, in terms of teaching, organisation and funding bids; the difference between ‘a comparatist’ and a ‘comparatist in disguise’.

Themes which attracted the most debate included:

  • Language and translation in comparative studies (particularly literature):

The debate focused on whether linguistic abilities in another language were essential in order to be a true (literary) ‘comparatist’. While some saw huge advantage in having skills in another language, others argued that the potential to teach texts in translation meant that this was not necessarily the case. Questions were then raised as to what it means to teach texts in translation; what are the benefits and drawbacks of this?


  • Departmental structure – do we need a ‘concrete’ department, or is a “virtual department preferable?

With the introduction of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Comparative Literature/Studies, much of the debate revolved around where Comparative Studies may fit within universities. Arguments were put forward both for and against the introduction of comparative departments within the university structure. Advanced as advantages were the arguments that this may make it easier to bid for funding in this area, and that it may make the centralisation of teaching comparative studies easier. Arguments against included: the fact that formalising comparative studies as a department may then institutionalise it to the extent that the field becomes more about modules and marks than intellectual pursuit; the fact that cross-departmental organisation in a “virtual department” brings together scholars that may otherwise not meet; that rather than using existing structures of organisation, we should find new ways of approaching comparative studies as a discipline.


  • Challenges of being a comparatist: Given the interdisciplinary nature of comparative studies, and the fact it is not institutionalised at most universities, participants raised challenges that they saw as needing acknowledgement.

 They included:

  1. Funding – how you justify the comparison your work is based upon, and attract funding for such research?;
  2. The changing role of the ‘nation’, ‘national language’ and ‘national departments’ – can we situate work within these frameworks in an age of increased globalisation and movemen?t;
  3. The fact that intellectual ideas are often ahead of institutional structures;
  4. Does it in fact make sense to compare things ‘one-on-one’ when so many premises and ideas overlap both within and outside of the comparison?


Such debates will be picked up at later CompLab @ Leeds events throughout the academic year; details of these are given below (dates may be subject to small changes):

[This information is taken from CompLab@Leeds’ 2016-2017 schedule.]

  • ‘Uncertain Borders’, 16 February 2017: How much space is there for various independent theoretical frameworks, such as Cultural Studies, World Literature, postcolonial literature, and migrant literature in the field of British academia? To what extent can these disciplines now be said to converge into the macro-category of comparative literature? How does globalisation affect the conception of individual ‘national literatures’?
  • ‘The Comparative Job’, 21 March 2017: With the introduction of BA programmes and postgraduate courses in the field of comparative literature, does this mean that graduates in this area will have strong employability prospects? What skills do students gain on these courses, and how does this contribute to the ability to gain funding? How does a specialist in comparative literature approach the issue of ‘impact’?
  • ‘The Comparatists Toolbox’, 25 April 2017: Comparatists today can draw upon a wide range of critical approaches in their work. By comparing excerpts from past and present essays on the theory of comparative literature, this session will focus on the place of methodology in the formation of the comparatist, and the depth that is required across different universities and departments.
  • ‘Found in Translation’, 24 May 2017: This session will consider how translation impacts on the academic work of literature students and specialists. How much attention should be devoted in academic research to theoretical discussions of translation? How are literatures from minor languages to be discussed from a comparative perspective without compromising their historical and national specificities?
  • CompLab@Leeds Workshop, June 2017 (details TBC): This one-day workshop will return to themes raised throughout the year, with speakers from the University of Leeds and from other British Universities reflecting on questions of methodology and on research case studies.

For more information on CompLab at Leeds, visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/pg/CompLabLeeds/about/?ref=page_internal, or contact the organisers of the sessions: Alessio Mattana (enam@leeds.ac.uk) and Laura Lucia Rossi (mlllr@leeds.ac.uk)


Welcome to the new NCLN website

The aim of the new Northern Comparative Literature Network Website is to make scholars working in the field of Comparative Literature in the Midlands and North of the UK aware of the of the Network and its activities. The NCLN aims to bring together scholars researching in this area, with the new website providing a centralised point of contact for events and work going on in Comparative Literature today.

The website will advertise its own events, and other events taking place in the UK, which may be of interest to Comparative Literature scholars. It also aims to provide a space in which researchers can share their work, through a guest blog section. We aim to publish blogs from PGRs, ECRs and established scholars alike. Should you be interested in submitting to a blog, get in touch with our communications co-ordinator, Jade Douglas on jl10jmd@leeds.ac.uk.