‘Literature and Transnational Citizenship’ is the title of a year-long series of graduate workshops and events that marks the beginning of the new partnership between Oxford and the Berlin universities. The study of how texts and ideas circulate across and beyond national borders is one of the most pressing issues within literary studies today. Stefano Evangelista (Oxford) and Gesa Stedman (Berlin) have put together a team of fourteen doctoral students and postdocs from Oxford and Berlin’s Humboldt and Freie universities, whose interest in this topic comes from within different historical and disciplinary perspectives. The group comprises, among others, experts in English and French early modern writing, Russian émigré literature, German modernism, war poetry and contemporary Argentine novels. The workshops create a forum where participants can share their expertise and, at the same time, discuss different theories and approaches that can help us understand how literature challenges the categories of citizenship and national identity. An important aim of the project is to provide graduates and early-career researchers with an opportunity to gain experience in how to communicate their research effectively and creatively to a wider public.
The first workshop took place at the Centre for British Studies, Berlin, in October 2018. It included several presentations, a seminar session on theories of transnationalism and a workshop on research-driven public engagement led by Victoria McGuinness. “There was a definite buzz in the room from the first moment. Theories and research projects were very quickly translated into innovative formats and ideas on how to captivate diverse audiences. We cannot wait to continue our discussions with the doctoral students at the next meetings”, says co-leader Gesa Stedman from the Centre for British Studies. The next workshop is a planned to take place at TORCH, in Oxford, on 11 and 12 April 2019. In the intervening months the participants will hold several virtual meetings by Skype. The year-long initiative will culminate in a public exhibition in Berlin as part of the Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften, on 15 June 2019.
The Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften is a yearly, high-profile public engagement event in which the city’s research institutions open their doors to the public for an entire night, showcasing innovative aspects of their work. The Oxford-Berlin group will design their own joint exhibition and host a series of talks, roundtables, and other activities for a wide variety of audiences.