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Books Out of Place

The Reception and Circulation of Fiction Outside its National Context

Friday 11th May 2018

A Symposium at the Humanities Research Centre, University of Warwick, UK

The recent critical success enjoyed by Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels and Karl Ove Knausgård’s six-volume My Struggle in the English-speaking world raises questions about how fiction circulates and is received outside its national context. Ferrante’s novels began their global success story in the United States, where translator Ann Goldstein, an editor and head of the copy department at The New Yorker, undoubtedly played a role in bringing them to prominence. The Anglophone Ferrante phenomenon means that the novels are now gradually finding their way into other European languages such as German where they were previously unavailable. Reviews of Ferrante’s work in the UK and the US have struggled to situate her feminism, to locate the novels generically and to mark them as high- or low-brow. Ironically, given the novels’ ‘Italian-ness’, little attention has been paid to their position in the Italian literary system or to their reception in Italy.

This symposium will consider what happens when fiction is removed from its national framework, looking in particular at whether we must inevitably assimilate texts and read from our own national context; how the ideas and ideologies of fictional texts are transformed through travel; if a book’s success abroad affects its status at home; the circumstances under which translated fiction operates innovatively or conservatively in the receiving culture; and the material processes and agencies by which foreign fiction reaches an English-speaking readership.