The 16th biannual conference of the Nordic Association for Literary Research
7–9 December 2021, Trondheim, Norway
Conference theme: Literature and space
Over the past decade, we have experienced new developments in our cultural and political perceptions of space. What was believed, at the turn of the millennium, to be an irreversible movement of spatial expansion towards a postnational, globalized world, has proven to be far more complex and “gritty”. Recent political landscapes have been characterized by a countermovement of contraction, into a remobilization of nationalism, ideals of the nation state, and the preoccupation with borders. The refugee crises of the 2010s and the climate crisis are both embedded into an ideological conflict centring around the idea of geographical and political space as something precarious. The recent corona-virus crisis has reconfigured our perceptions of space in yet another way, in what could be described as a double movement of contraction and expansion: the use of isolation, quarantines, and so-called social distancing, the closing of borders and radical reduction of movement and travel, correspond to a contraction of our living spaces. At the same time, an opposite movement has taken place in the digital domain, in an expansion of our virtual spaces within culture, education, and commerce.
These developments call for responses from the community of literary scholars on the relationship between literature and space, and, by extension, for reassessing the critical approaches in literary studies that have followed the so-called spatial turn of the humanities and social sciences. Although approaches to literature and space are as methodologically as they are thematically diverse, they share a conception of literature being important to how cultures perceive space, and of space being important to literary forms. The urgent questions now are how these approaches can help us understand the political and cultural developments of the new decade, and how these developments in turn can be used to rethink our critical approaches.