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Nordic Poets & Critics

The workshops that we propose are meant to catapult the project Poets & Critics. The overall aim of the project is to develop a new, original and inclusive concept of research and dissemination within the field of post-national literary studies. The project sets out 1) to create a network for contemporary Scandinavian poetry and by extension Nordic literature, 2) to facilitate the exchange of ideas across the divides between primarily poets and critics/scholars and 3) to function as a laboratory for the development of knowledge production within literary studies.

With these three aims we bring actors outside of academia into the project thus opening the area of cross-institutional as well as cross-national literary research; we do it in an open workshop-form designed to develop new kinds of knowledge production and to secure a curiosity-driven bottom-up research.

The main participants are professor Dan Ringgaard (Aarhus University, Denmark), professor Sissel Furuseth (Oslo University, Norway), professor Sven Anders Johansson (Mid-Sweden University), poet and Ph.D. Martin Glaz Serup (Denmark), and Ph.D-students Emma Helene Heggdal (Oslo University), Sophia Roberg (Stockholm University) and Hans Lind ((Aarhus University).

Within two years the network will arrange three two-days workshops each concerning the works of one major contemporary poet writing in either Norwegian, Swedish or Danish. The last workshop will transform the accumulated experiences into a new network or a larger, depending on the results. The general outline of the workshops is borrowed from a French research project on contemporary American poetry, also called Poets & Critics, that we will collaborate with during the entire process.

On the workshops the ordinary academic routines are turned up-side-down. There are no papers. Instead there are two days of open discussions between poets and critics and other interested parties on the works of a specially invited poet. Instead of each participant presenting a paper prepared ahead, the idea is to take advantage of the entire amount of knowledge present at the workshop and to develop ideas collectively about the works of the poet. The participants will have prepared themselves by reading shared texts and acquainting themselves with the works of the poet. We aim for a forum that is as open and inclusive as possible.

At each workshop, the morning of the first day will be devoted to discussions without the invited poet, discussing the agenda of the workshop. The afternoon of the first day and second day will consist of discussions with the poet present. One of the network’s applicants will moderate the discussions. The evening of the first day there will be a reading by the poet and another poet invited for this particular occasion.

After each workshop a shared folder and a short resume of the sessions will be available on our web-site. This material will support the development of our work, but keep the productive openness of the process, crucial for a network to be innovative. All participators are encouraged to contribute to a series of publications in the wake of the workshops. In order to start out with a limited and well-defined field we have chosen to confine ourselves to poetry in the three closely related languages of Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. We intend to spread out the field to prose genres and to the rest of the Nordic region on the other side of the two-year period, expanding the network and its initiative within the cross-institutional and cross-Nordic workshop-frame of the project.

 

In the wake of globalization, the region has become increasingly important within literary as well as cultural studies. It offers itself as a “median context” (Kundera, 291) between the too large scale of world literature and the too small scale of national literatures, between the often too abstract perspectives of the global and the provincialism of the local. The region may “break open the limits of the national while retaining enough specificity to allow for in-depth research and knowledge of the relevant languages for example”; as the domain of the “[s]upernational but subglobal” it may prove a promising working space (Bush 172). The Nordic region has such potential.

The global perspective on the Nordic countries forms a region rather than a number of distinct nations, and a first wave of regional literary histories have already been published and are being published at present. The three so far largest ones are The History of Nordic Women’s Literature I-V, A Cultural History of the Avantgarde in the Nordic Countries I-III and Nordic Literature: A Comparative History I-III. The last two have yet to be completed. The main applicant is co-editor of Nordic Literature. The work done by Center of Scandinavian Studies Lund-Copenhagen (CSS) also marks an important contribution to the field. The lesson that we can now draw from these projects is that the establishment of the Nordic region as an actual field of study is by no means easy, among other things due to a deficit of knowledge when it comes to literatures other than one’s own national literature.

We are now in a phase where the challenge is to go beyond singular publications and establish various stable and long-term networks criss-crossing the region in order to lay the foundation for the further development of the field of Nordic comparative regional literary studies.

If globalization has been and still is a gamechanger, also within literary studies, another equally major power of transformation is mediatization (Hjarvard) and with it the so-called expanded field of literature (Krauss, Ørum). Two aspects of change within the new media-ecology is the facilitation of collective knowledge production and the weakening of institutions such as the literary institution at large with its segregation between writers, mediators (publishers, social media, libraries, newspapers, education and research) and readers. It would be false to say that poetry is in a bad state, or that literary criticism or academic literary scholarship is. What is weak is rather the links between these branches. There is a lack of fora, of infrastructure, of meeting places, above all if we look at Nordic literature as one field.

Apart from countering the deficit of knowledge described above in order to strengthen the Nordic region as a field of research, the workshops are also designed to take advantage of the regional turn by developing knowledge that is otherwise often wasted. The potential knowledge that needs to be developed is exactly 1) the collective knowledge that can be developed by turning the usual workshop design up-side-down, and 2) the knowledge that remains underdeveloped due to an unnecessary segregation between poets, critics and other groups within the literary institution. We want to use the continuity built into a long-term network to promote a much-needed cross-fertilization between different types of knowledge and creativity among poets and critics. As a laboratory for the development of knowledge production the network is situated within the field of artistic research (Caduff, Leavy, McQuillan).

The field of Scandinavian poetry has been developed over the last decade in the research project “Contemporary Poetry between Genres, Art Forms and Media” (CERCOP), “Nordisk poesifetival” at Hamar, Norway and the open access-journal Nordisk poesi. Fria Workshopet i Litterär Kritik has for some years been a platform for alternative criticism in the Nordic region, but the inclusion of university scholars and of non-Swedish writers has been limited. These initiatives and others have paved the way for the present proposal. The time is ripe to take this research to the next level by conceptualizing and intensifying the mutual exchange of knowledge between poets and critics and by developing collective bottom-up methods of research and dissemination. The workshops are designed to achieve precisely that.

The project is by nature Nordic and unthinkable without the Nordic level. Its impact on the research community consists of its contribution to post-national literary studies and to alternative knowledge production. Its value for the community at large lies particularly in the cross-fertilization of the institutional fields of creative and critical writing, and more generally in the workshop method as a way of bridging academic studies with a broader cultural interest in literature.