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Family Sagas in World Literatures and Audio-Visual Cultures Reimagining Nations Across the Globe


Conference venue
: Centre for World Literatures – Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures, University of Leeds
Period: 28-29 June 2017, 9am-5pm
Deadline for submitting full papers: 30 January 2017


Description of the Conference

The family saga is a constitutively transnational and multi-media genre, bridging highbrow and popular cultures. The genre counts some of the bestsellers of world literature, including not just novels, but also serial narratives (trilogies, cycles), and comics, ranging from the late nineteenth century up to the present day. Being serial narratives that appeal to audiences, family sagas have also been adapted to or produced for cinema, radio and TV series. Examples of family sagas include:  Zola’s Les Rougon-Macquart, Eça de Queirós’s Os Maias, Mann’s Buddenbrooks, Woolf’s The Years, Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Haley’s Roots, Cunningham’s Flesh and Blood, Spiegelman’s Maus, Mo Yan’s Big Breasts and Wide Hips, Ferrante’s Neapolitan Cycle, Reitz’s Heimat, Giordana’s La meglio gioventù, Fellowes’ Downton Abbey.

These family stories represent metonymically and metaphorically the life of nations as subject to the vagaries of local and world history. Family sagas respond to the need to reimagine nations at times of crisis spurred by economic, social, and political change; gender, ethnic, religious, and class conflicts; demographic transitions; and migration. Family sagas question pre-existing normative ideals of the nation, giving voice to silenced minorities, functioning as a cultural tool for the immanent critique of the national imagery and identity. The family saga as a cultural genre is instrumental to a ‘politics of aesthetics’, since it challenges and redefines the ‘partition of the sensible’ that frames the nation as an ‘imagined community’.

This interdisciplinary conference, jointly organized by the University of Leeds Centre for World Literatures and Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures, will bring together researchers who are specialized in different linguistic and cultural areas and working on different media. The objective is to examine circulation, forms, themes, and cultural functions of family sagas in world literatures and audio-visual cultures from a variety of perspectives.

Eligible topics for the conference

Topics for papers may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • family sagas in world literatures, including comics and graphic novels
  • family sagas in film, radio and TV series
  • family sagas and cross-media (adaptations) or trans-media storytelling
  • family sagas and translation
  • family sagas and seriality
  • family sagas and/as family memoirs (fiction and autobiography)
  • family sagas and gender (gender identity and relations)
  • family sagas and the nation (national heritage and identity)
  • family sagas and ethnicity (post-colonial and ethnic identities)
  • family sagas and new family structures/new forms of parenting
  • family sagas, migration, and transnational identities
  • family sagas, normativity, and the law


There are two confirmed keynote speakers:

  • Dr Nicholas White, Reader in Modern French Literature (University of Cambridge)
  • Dr Rachel Palfreyman, Associate Professor in German Studies (University of Nottingham)

Guidelines for submission

Paper proposals should include a title, a 500 word abstract, a short biographical note, contact details and institutional affiliation (where appropriate).

Selected conference papers will be submitted as an edited volume to an established academic press or journal.

Submit to: a.baldini@leeds.ac.uk

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: 30 January 2017
NOTIFICATION: 15 February 2017

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