English is not the world’s most spoken language. Still, it is one of the most powerful, influential and hegemonic languages, considerably organising the spheres of literature, academia, global economy, etc. According to Mufti, the English language could rise to dominance because, in the course of modern histories of globalisation, it has assumed ”an aura of universality and transparency” (16), which allows it to fulfil various mediating functions. As a seemingly ”neutral or transparent medium” (Mufti 16), English has also become the global language of literature, which pervasively ”mediat[es] world literary relations” (Mufti 17). Backed by the pre-eminence of Anglo-American publishing houses, texts written in English usually travel much further and faster than, say, texts written in Arabic, Mandarin, or French.
To counter such ‘Anglo-globalism’ and the historically mediated invisibility of standard English, more and more literary texts draw on a multilingual poetics, i.e. a poetics that brings together multiple linguistic influences, traditions and conventions. Indicating that languages only come into being through processes of mixing, adapting and exchange, multilingualism rigorously points beyond ethnic, territorial and / or national limits and reveals unexpected and politically occluded histories of contact and kinship.
In this seminar, we will discuss selected multilingual texts by, e.g., Derek Walcott (poems), Louise Bennett (poems), Jean Rhys (Wide Sargasso Sea), Junot Díaz, Ocean Vuong, and analyse how they represent the contact and conflict between various languages. Close readings will be combined with historically sensitive interpretations of language politics. We will also discuss how multilingual texts circulate across different contexts and relate to multiple readerships.

Images and word-image configurations abound in postcolonial Anglophone literatures. Such visual constellations do not only fulfill decorative functions; rather, they are intriciately connected to power, subjecitivity and knowledge. We will discuss the relations between visual practices and European colonialism and analyse how postcolonial writers mobilise the dynamic of vision as a productive force in the process of cultural decolonisation. How, in other words, do these texts, stare back at the coloniser and how do they turn the gaze?
Moreover, the analysis of visual practices in Anglophone literatures allows us to address key questions of literary and cultural theory: How is the relationship between image and text reflected in literature and where are the limits of words and image to create meaning? How and why do literary texts evoke images, and what processes of aesthetic transformation do intermedial references involve? How do text-image relationships take part in the generation of knowledge and what do they reveal about contemporary media cultures and respective power relations?

In our interdisciplinary discussion of selected novels and poems by Teju Cole (Everyday is for the Thief), Jamaica Kincaid (Lucy), Nurridin Farrah (Hiding in Plain Sight) and Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient), we will focus on the politics of vision to explore the relations between being, knowing and seeing.