14 – 15 November 2014 – University of Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria

The importance, in human civilization, of comparative work and interaction with other cultures can hardly be exaggerated. Significantly, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a seminal figure in European Enlightenment thought, links encounters with new objects and the making of comparisons to the improvement of human understanding of both self and others. Our present condition of globalization impels us to make comparisons constantly insofar as we incessantly encounter novelties. In other words, nowadays most of us are comparatists. The ubiquity of cultural interaction and comparative work may explain the renewed focus on intercultural and comparative studies in the humanities and interpretative social sciences over the last 20 years or so.

At the same time, comparative work is beset by problems, mostly to do with methodology. How do we define the act of comparison? How do we envision the grounds of comparison? What pitfalls are implicit in the overfamiliar statement: “you can only compare that which is comparable”?

Those and other issues were addressed by the interdisciplinary seminar Comparative Studies in the Age of Globalization, held at the University of Veliko Turnovo on 14-15 November 2014. The seminar brought together about 30 participants from the host institution, the University of Sofia, and universities in the US and Turkey. Prof. Alexander Shurbanov, University of Sofia,  gave the keynote address which focused on Shakespeare’s jubilees in Bulgaria (1939-1964), thus alerting us to the significance of reception studies within the broader context of comparative literature. The multifaceted issue of literary reception was also central to Prof. Tatyana Stoicheva’s talk “The anticipated English reception of The Shade of the Balkans (1904) as regards Pencho Slaveikov’s paratexts.”

Other topics included the “worlding” of literature and its links to migration and globalization (Ludmilla Kostova), “bodies in transit across the Mediterranean” (Megan MacDonald), issues of identity and transnationalism (Barbara Hussey, Petya Tsoneva), and national stereotypes (Boryana Bratanova).

The full programme can be downloaded in PDF here.

Photos: gallery

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