Undergraduate, World Literature
Field Notes: Anna Lechintan, World Literature
SFU’s World Literature Program belongs to the IWL consortium and has sent undergraduates to this event every year. As a program that is primarily attended by graduate students and junior faculty studying world literature from around the world, the IWL program presents unique opportunity for undergraduates to engage in intellectual camaraderie and experience what academic life is all about. The next IWL session will be held in Tokyo in July 2018.
University of Copenhagen, July 2017
By Anna Lechintan, World Literature Major
This summer I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Copenhagen to participate in this year’s Institute for World Literature (IWL) summer school session. I spent the month of July in this beautiful city learning about World Literature as an academic field of study, reading interesting books and articles, and engaging in productive discussions with some of the most brilliant and lovely people I’ve ever met.
I fell in love with Copenhagen immediately upon my arrival at the end of June. From the quaint cobblestone streets to the colourful townhouses along the canal in Nyhavn, to the Baroque and Renaissance spires that break its otherwise horizontal skyline, Copenhagen has a unique charm that brings one in touch both with history and the realm of fantasy. Indeed, it seems to have inspired enough influential writers – such as Hans Christian Andersen and the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, among others – to suggest that there is something special about the city’s atmosphere which lends itself to creative thinking and artistic expression.
The seventh session of the IWL began on July third. For the following four weeks, the participants took part in two eight-day seminars, a colloquium group, as well as a four plenary lectures from IWL faculty and two panel sessions. Not surprisingly, the seminars, lectures, and sessions all revolved around World Literature as a rapidly developing academic field. They combined different approaches ranging from issues of globalization, multilingualism, and debates surrounding the practice of World Literature. Such challenges evolved into productive conversations addressing questions like: what is the best way to expand the scope of World Literature’s canon while maintaining a balance between the ‘world’ and the local? What role does translation play in World Literature? Interestingly, Dr. David Damrosch – the founder of the IWL – started the session off by addressing these issues in the field with his opening lecture titled What Isn’t World Literature?
As an undergraduate student among many scholars with much more academic experience, I was quite nervous about the IWL before it began. I worried about what I would respond with when asked what my research was on, whether I would be lost in the discussions, and how I would manage the courses. However, upon arrival it soon became clear that I had no reason to be anxious. Everyone I met at the IWL was extremely kind and encouraging. I was inspired by the interesting topics of many and their dedication to their studies and speaking to these graduate students, PhD candidates, and the faculty members shed a lot of light on what academia is like. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to gain this insight from them and these conversations solidified my hopes of pursuing an academic career as well.
I discovered that I actually could keep up with the ideas shared at the IWL. Indeed, I very soon began to feel like SFU’s World Literature program had prepared me very well for this event as I recognized many of the readings assigned for the seminars from courses I had taken back home. One memorable experience was taking Dr. Susan Stanford Friedman’s seminar titled Planetary Modernisms. To begin with, Dr. Friedman is a lovely person and a wonderful instructor. I really enjoyed this seminar; we read and discussed some great texts including one of my very favourites, Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North. That wasn’t all, however: last spring semester at SFU, I took WL 401, led by Dr. Seigneurie. This class was titled Early Modernities and in it, we actually read parts of Dr. Friedman’s book Planetary Modernisms. Taking Dr. Friedman’s seminar, then, was very special – it was a very interesting experience to put a face to the scholar whose ideas we had discussed in class and to learn from her first-hand.
What with the seminars, readings, outings, and friendships made, the month of July flew by; before I knew it, it was the last day of the IWL. All in all, it was an unforgettable experience. I got to know so many wonderful people whose work inspired me. Although I was sad to leave Copenhagen and the IWL behind when the time came to leave, I was happy that I could take the memories and friendships – not to mention the things I learned during the seminars – away with me. I wholeheartedly recommend participating in the IWL to any student who is interested in literature in the global context and is considering an academic career. Attending the IWL was one of the best experiences of my academic journey so far and I am beyond grateful to have had this opportunity.