Nobel Symposium (187)


Literary Judgment and the Fora of Criticism

Today, those who judge literature do so in the context of a more or less global book market, in heterogeneous societies, in analogue and digital fora and forms. Compared to the twentieth century, the fora of criticism have become more widespread and diverse, with several points of access to the reading public. Some of these fora have a global reach, most obviously discussions and critical practices conducted in English, while others serve important roles within various linguistic, national, or local spheres. Discussions run in parallel, on different terms and with different goals. Some of these discussions take place in environments where politics may seem to have limited sway, while in others the social or ideological relevance of works of art is strongly highlighted. Although activities like these are highly valuable, as they increase the visibility of literature, they also call attention to the diverging tendencies that characterize the critical discussion today, even as its spectrum seems to be broadening, stretching as it does from theoretical academic discourse not only to articles and reviews in popular magazines and newspapers, but to general readers using social media to broadcast their reactions to literary works.
In the European public spheres of the eighteenth century, literature was a central and vital topic of debate, even as access to such spheres was limited by gender and class. Have the new media and fora for the expression of popular opinion lead to a democratization of the public sphere, or to its deterioration? And what are the implications of the challenges to the literary canon over the last half century? Have such challenges brought about a relativizing and levelling of value judgements, or intensifying conflicts between different regimes of value?
The conference aims at analyzing, comparing and contextualizing the different attitudes, criteria and goals that have inspired literary judgement in the past few decades. The discussion will draw varyingly on experiences in three professional arenas in which literary criticism matters: academia; literary criticism and reviewing in the daily and periodical press and other media; and literature itself as a field of aesthetic and social practice. The conference asks in what ways practitioners in these different environments may reach common ground for the sake of literature, its readers and the growing diverse global public?

Mats Jansson
Project Manager
University of Gothenburg

Sandra Richter
Assistant Project Manager 
University of Stuttgart/German Literature Archive

Astradur Eysteinsson
Scientific Advisory Group
University of Iceland

Gisèle Sapiro
Scientific Advisory Group
EHESS, Paris

Rita Felski
Scientific Advisory Group
University of Virginia