Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

The Pace of Information: Literature as Limit

Prof. Michael Beard, Dr. Allen Hibbard.

In this workshop we wish to initiate and propel a discussion on the complex array of factors influencing how and when news passes from one culture to another, most problematically the kind of news which conveys cultural experiences and artistic expressions, and how fast that passage can take place. Textual touchstones for this discussion will include Edward Said’s classic essay “Traveling Theory,” James Clifford’s Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century, and Lawrence Venuti’s The Translator’s Invisibility, all of which take as their subject the question of how ideas, people, styles and artifacts move from one place to another and what effects they produce in their new context. Our opening question is to determine what obstacles control the pace and flow of information in the Humanities.
We are particularly interested in the pace at which cultural information travels: what obstacles (technological differentials, political and ideological differences, historical patterns of interaction, language barriers, immigration policies, publishers’ financial concerns, geographic exigencies, etc.) obstruct the flow of ideas, people and cultural artifacts. The case of translation can serve as a starting point for an examination of this process. In its simplest form this obstruction can be observed from the title pages of books: a novel or poem once produced may wait years, or endlessly, before it is translated and published in any given target language. The various factors determining what is translated, into what languages, and when are themselves insufficiently studied—insufficiently studied and yet familiar to most humanists in practice. After laying out the contours of these general issues and concerns, we will invite those among us to begin with specific examples, and to continue by isolating the cultural, social, political or material fields of force which underlie those examples.
Underlying our project is the assumption that literature can function as a countervailing, insistent pressure against calcified political attitudes, prevailing stereotypes, and ignorance of the other’s cultural scene. But before it can function to preserve the human in an increasingly post-human era, it must be set in motion.


Prof. Michael Beard  (United States)

University of North Dakota

Dr. Allen Hibbard  (United States)
Director of Graduate Studies
Department of English
Middle Tennessee State University

  • Borders
  • Politics
  • Literature
  • Translation
  • Knowledge
  • Time
  • Geography
  • Transnational

(60 min. Workshop, English)