Welcome to “Borrowed Wor(l)ds”

This conference ventures beyond the traditional purview of literary studies, bringing together scholars of modern and premodern, Western and non-Western literatures, to explore the ubiquity of ‘borrowings’ in literary production at all times and places.

Recent decades have witnessed a surge of interest in all forms of literary, aesthetic, and cultural appropriation. Prone to eliciting normative responses, acts of appropriation have frequently been criticized either for insufficiently paying respect to collective identities not one’s own, or for the—tacit, surreptitious, or illegitimate—incorporation of material claimed as their own by others. However, many bodies of literature, not least those of the Romance Middle Ages or the many unauthored literatures of the premodern Middle East, would seem to thrive precisely on the retelling, reworking, and rearrangement of extant material. Similarly, borrowing sans quotation mark appears to constitute an accepted norm, rather than exception, in some niches of contemporary culture (cover versions, stagings).

What cultural factors are at play in the divergent assessments of ‘borrowings’ of all kinds? What presumptions of auctorial origin, proprietorship, or subjectivity underlie these assessments? In close conversation with migrating and diaspora literatures, philological and sociological perspectives, scholarly as well as artistic positions, this conference brings into focus the multifarious and multivalent facets of “Borrowed Wor(l)ds.”