Temporal Communities – Doing Literature in a Global Perspective

A new concept of literature across the boundaries of periods, cultures and media

Introducing the notion of “temporal communities,” the Cluster will study how literature becomes global through its temporal entanglements.

Introducing the notion of “temporal communities,” the Cluster will study how literature becomes global through its temporal entanglements.
Image Credit: Daniel Stader / Isabelle Fellner

The cluster Temporal Communities – Doing Literature in a Global Perspective aims to radically rethink the concept of literature in a global perspective which requires us to overcome traditional categories of literary history such as ‘period’ and ‘nation’. In a global perspective, literature is perceived as a phenomenon that reaches out through time, thus calling into question traditional cultural and linguistic boundaries. As a global phenomenon, literature displays a remarkable degree of complexity and fluidity as it engages in constant exchange with other arts and cultural practices. We are no longer concerned with traditional notions such as the ‘great poet’ and his ‘works’ but rather with literature’s capacity for establishing communities across time that undermine the concept of the literary as developed within modern Western societies.

Within a literary context, ‘being global’ basically amounts to ‘being entangled’.

The scholars participating in this Cluster – which is located at Freie Universität Berlin – conceive of literature as a fundamentally performative practice that exists only because there are people who tell stories, who read, who write, who stage and illustrate, who create sounds or images. Literature engages with and combines diverse media and, consequently, is far more than merely (printed) texts: literature also encompasses performances, illustrations, (pop-)songs and the cinema. That is why literature’s manifold entanglements – and especially: literature’s temporal entanglements – constitute our core research interest. Within a literary context, ‘being global’ basically amounts to ‘being entangled’, entangled across great spans of time, across different cultural contexts and different media.

The concept of ‘temporal communities’ is meant to describe how literature reaches out into time – sometimes across millennia – and space and how, in so doing, it establishes complex networks and engages in constant exchange with other arts, media, institutions and social phenomena. “We consider ‘temporal communities’ to describe the complex interaction in time and space that characterizes literary phenomena, since it is through these entanglements that literature is established in the first place,” says Andrew James Johnston, Professor of English Philology at Freie Universität Berlin and Spokesperson of the cluster.

Andrew James Johnston and Anita Traninger, both professors of literary studies at Freie Universität Berlin, are the spokespersons for the Cluster.

Andrew James Johnston and Anita Traninger, both professors of literary studies at Freie Universität Berlin, are the spokespersons for the Cluster.
Image Credit: Miriam Klingl

The cluster will cooperate with a number of local and international partners such as the University of Berkeley, California; the Jawaharlal-Nehru-University, New Delhi; the Bibliotheca Hertziana, Rome; as well as the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin; the Museum Hamburger Bahnhof and the Literarisches Colloquium Berlin: “We are aiming for a flexible organizational structure that will enable scholars at all possible career stages to develop and pursue small- and medium-scale projects involving international fellows,” explains Anita Traninger, Professor of Romance Philology at Freie Universität Berlin and Spokesperson of the cluster. On the basis of an ambitious digital humanities component and creative concepts for research-oriented teaching as well as collaborations with Berlin’s literary and cultural scene the cluster will actively participate in Berlin’s literary life and reach out to the wider public.

Spokespersons: Prof. Dr. Andrew James Johnston and Prof. Dr. Anita Traninger
Applicant university: Freie Universität Berlin
Cooperation partners: International:
  • Bibliotheca Hertziana, Rom
  • Columbia University
  • Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi
  • King’s College, London
  • The University of California, Berkeley
  • The University of Tokyo
National und local:
  • Akademie der Künste, Berlin
  • Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin – Museum für Gegenwart Berlin
  • Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW)
  • Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut (IAI)
  • Lettrétage – Das junge Literaturhaus
  • Literarisches Colloquium Berlin
  • Marbach Weimar Wolfenbüttel Research Association (MWW)
  • international literature festival berlin( ilb)
  • Schaubühne
  • Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz