“Asia in World Literature” Training Program

Call For Applications

We are pleased to announce a call for applications for a June 2023 Training Program on "Asia in World Literature" held at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand

ARTS CU-HYI Joint Training Program: Asia in World Literature
June 7-13, 2023

Co-organized by the Harvard-Yenching Institute and the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University
Training Program Venue: The Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

Application Deadline: April 15, 2023
Application Form Download Link: https://bit.ly/3TawPua

Rationale: World literature made a comeback at the turn of the twenty-first century. David Damrosch’s publication of What is World Literature? in 2003 has created a lasting impact in academia, especially for those working in the discipline of comparative literature. His treatise asks the reader to rethink literary studies now that globalization has exerted its effect on world literary arenas. Translation should no longer be an issue a great number of comparatists eschew or regard as inferior. His premise goes as follows: “I take world literature to encompass all literary works that circulate beyond their culture of origin, either in translation or in their original language.” (Damrosch, 2003: 4) Thus, translation is accepted as the literary landscape has been increasingly widened and readers have arguably been more cosmopolitan.

Following this line of development, it reveals that translated works and their recognition are not evenly studied in the global landscape of comparative literary studies, as Kuei-fen Chiu and Táňa Dluhošová state that: “since a literary work joins the rank of world literature only when it becomes visible in the world literary space and resonates with an international readership, recognition and visibility have always been important issues for world literature studies. An important indicator of visibility or acknowledgement is international literary awards.” (Chiu and Dluhošová, 2021: 226) Seen in this light, literary scholarship seems to focus increasingly on foreign writers but mainly through their gaining certain accolades, be they the Nobel Prize for Literature or the International Booker Prize. However, only a handful of Asian writers have garnered such honors and this has limited the visibility of Asian writers in the global arena. For example, for its history of more than 120 years, the Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to only four Asians writers (i.e. Rabindranath Tagore, Yasunari Kawabata, Kenzaburō Ōe, and Mo Yan), if we consider Kazuo Ishiguro British and Gao Xingjian French.

In addition to recognition, the issue of methodology comes into question. Can we study Asian literature as world literature by creating its own nexus of connection? According to Karen Thornber:

[…] intra-European comparative scholarship, indeed even intra-Western European comparative scholarship, is rarely if ever thought of as “area studies.” In contrast, despite the fact that East and South Asia both have twice the population of Europe and longer and more diverse cultural histories, intra-East Asian and intra-South Asian, even intra-Asian scholarship is frequently dismissed as “area studies.” The same holds true for scholarship on Central and Southeast Asian literatures, notwithstanding the plethora of languages involved. In addition, when they have been studied in a comparative context, non-Western-language literatures, as well as Western-language literatures from outside Western power centers, have mainly been examined in terms of their connections with literatures from Western power centers, either as inspirations/appropriations or as exhibiting similarities/differences.” (Thornber, 2017: 156)

Thornber here touches on a few problematic issues when it comes to Asia and the notion of world literature. First, the blurry nature of area studies in the US subsumes studies that are located in Asia, whereas those located in Europe are rarely put in the same field. Either Europe or the US has always been the yardstick against which Asian literatures are measured. The issue of visibility or recognition of Asian literatures in the global arena cannot therefore be separated from the question of translation, especially into English or French. It is not surprising that Thornber suggests an intra-Asian scholarship as an alternative to bypass such a domination by the West and so far we have seen many attempts to create these connections, such as Ronit Ricci’s idea of “Islamic literary networks” by which she means the networks that “connected Muslims across boundaries of space and culture, and helped introduce and sustain a complex web of prior texts and new interpretations, crucial to the establishment of both local and global Islamic identities.” (Ricci, 2014: 438) The investigation into such networks may provide a possible non-Eurocentric avenue of research that may be regarded as another step toward world literature scholarship.

This training program will put under the spotlight these issues of recognition and visibility of Asian literatures in the framework of world literature. It will be one of the first workshops in Southeast Asia that targets these matters and will raise the awareness among the participants of the need not just to read and understand Asian texts, but to frame them within global literary communities. With scholars on world literature from the US and Asia, we hope to make use of this training program not only to create in a new group of young scholars a firm background in comparative and world literature but also a sensitivity to the politics of recognition by addressing such issues as:

  • The visibility and recognition of Asian literatures in the global arena
  • The potential and limitations of the study of Asian literatures as world literature
  • The methodological potential and challenges of Intra-Asian literary studies
  • The politics of translation and its ambivalent relationship with Asian literary outputs
  • The recognition of Asian literatures in times of crises and its global role
  • The aestheticization and stereotyping of Asian and Southeast Asian literatures in the global literary landscape
  • Literary merit and evaluation of Asian literatures in the context of international standards
  • Sociology of Asian and Southeast Asian literatures

Chiu, Kuei-fan, and Táňa Dluhošová. 2021. Introduction: East Asian and Southeast Asian Literature in the World Literary Space. Archiv Orientální 89: 223-236.

Damrosch, David. 2013. What is World Literature? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Ricci, Ronit. 2014. Islamic Literary Networks in South and Southeast Asia (2010). In World Literature in Theory, ed. by David Damrosch, pp. 437-459. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Thornber, Karen. 2017. Comparative Literature, World Literature, and Asia. In Futures of Comparative Literature: ACLA State of the Discipline Report, ed. by Ursula K. Heise, pp. 156-161. London and New York: Routledge.

Confirmed Speakers

  • David Damrosch (Harvard University)
  • Karen Thornber (Harvard University)
  • Annette Lienau (Harvard University)
  • Zhang Longxi (City University of Hong Kong)
  • Baidik Bhattacharya (CSDS, India)
  • Suradech Chotiudompant (Chulalongkorn University, Thailand)
  • Phrae Chittiphalangsri (Chulalongkorn University, Thailand)


Lectures will be delivered in English.


The program is open to up to 20 scholars (junior faculty members, postgraduate students, and post-doctoral fellows) in literary studies and other related fields from all over the world.

The applicant should:

  1. fulfill one of these conditions:
    a. be currently employed by an institution of higher education or research in social sciences and the humanities and have received an MA or a PhD degree (awarded not more than 10 years prior to June 2023);
    b. be studying in an institution of higher education or research for a PhD or MA in relevant fields;
  2. have a good command of English and be able to attend lectures and seminars given in English for the whole duration of the workshop.

The Harvard-Yenching Institute may consider applications from Asia-based trainees for a very small number of future HYI fellowships opportunities.

Financial Support

Travel fares and insurance, visa application fees (if any), accommodation and other expenses are the responsibility of the participants. Funding covering travel and local accommodation may be provided by the Harvard-Yenching Institute only in very exceptional cases.

Important Dates

  1. By April 15, 2023, the applicant should submit via email the completed application form with two letters of recommendation to Dr Jittima Pruttipurk (asiainworldlit@gmail.com)
  2. By April 30, 2023, notifications of the application will be sent to applicants via email.

Dr. Jittima Pruttipurk
Program Coordinator
Chulalongkorn University

Dr. Li Ruohong
Associate Director
Harvard-Yenching Institute