Monolingualism and Its Discontents Conference

Monolingualism and Its Discontents
Organized by the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory and the Office of the Dean of the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, Monolingualism and Its Discontents is a two-day conference featuring twelve essay presentations and fifteen speakers. This conference is cosponsored by Comparative & World Literature, English, Program in Translation & Interpreting Studies, and the School of Literatures, Cultures & Linguistics. 

Monolingualism and Its Discontents takes a counter-intuitive object as a starting point for reflection on our disciplinary commitments, orientations, and productions. Curiously resistant to scrutiny as an object in itself, monolingualism often appears either as an indispensable antagonist or an unmarked marker, a category named more than examined. Steering a course between these approaches, this symposium explores monolingualism's internal heterogeneity and its potential for opposition and minority appropriation. A crucial aspect of this task entails reckoning with its entanglement in Euro-American colonial modernity, of which Achille Mbembe wryly remarks: “colonialism rhymes with monolingualism.” Equally instrumental, as Yasemin Yildiz notes, is German/European nationalism in propagating the monolingual paradigm as a “key structuring principle that organizes the entire range of modern social life, from the construction of individuals and their proper subjectivities to the formation of disciplines and institutions, as well as imagined collectives such as cultures and nations.” Within this model “individuals and social formations are imagined to possess one "true" language only, their "mother tongue" and through this possession to be organically linked to an exclusive, clearly demarcated ethnicity, culture, and nation” (2). The effect of such naturalizing fictions of language “families” has a deep history, founding the myth of an Aryan race in the work of eighteenth-century Indologists like Sir William Jones on the linguistic hypothesis of a common source language (Indo-Aryan or Indo-European) linking Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit. The growing use of language in citizenship tests in Europe is one legacy of this vision of linguistic unity as national unity. The speakers, a group of scholars and creative writers, examine the long life of disparate modes of monolingualism and the traditions of literary and cultural production that have and continue to contest its assumptions. In tracing the emergence of the concept of monolingualism, exploring its legacies, and anatomizing its implications, we seek to unsettle its rule.


Conference Schedule

Friday, October 15

9:15-9:30 am CT  |  Opening remarks

Christopher Cannon (JHU) and Susan Koshy (UIUC)    


9:30-11:00 am CT  |  Session 1: Chris Cannon, Chair

Rey Chow (Duke), “The Jargon of Liberal Democracy”  

Juliet Fleming (NYU),Ernest Jones and the Case of the Stiff Upper Lip” 

Nicholas Watson (Harvard), "Alcuin at Aachen"


11:30-2:30 pm CT  |  Break


2:30-4:00 pm CT  |  Session 2: Susan Koshy, Chair

Sarah Dowling (U of Toronto),Monolingualisms Without States; Monolingualisms as Anti-Humanisms”

B. Venkat Mani (UW-Madison), “‘Marh ma shay’: Languages of Narratives of Refuge”


Saturday, October 16 

9:00- 10:30 am CT  |  Session 4: Christopher Cannon, Chair

Janet Sorensen (UC Berkeley),National Monolingualism and Rhetorics of Empire in the Age of Johnson”

Rebecca Walkowitz (Rutgers), “English as an Additional Language”


10:30-11:00 am CT  |  Break


11:00am-12:30 pm CT  |  Session 5: Susan Koshy, Chair

Edgar Garcia (U of Chicago), “The Monolingual Image: Mesoamerican Iconography in Latinx Anime” 

Eric Calderwood (UIUC), “Strait Talk” 


12:30-2:00 pm CT  |  Break 


2:00-3:30 pm CT  |   Session 6: Christopher Cannon, Chair

Susan Choi (Yale), “One Language/One Home - Monolingual Aspiration and Its Shortcomings Across Three Generations”

Taoufik Ben Amor (Columbia), “I Shall Not Speak Your Language”


3:30-4:30 pm CT  |  Concluding Roundtable (closed session for participants)

Faith Beasley (Dartmouth), Moderator


Paper Abstracts

I Shall Not Speak Your Language1

Taoufik Ben Amor (Columbia)

Ahlam Mustaghanmi’s first novel, Dhākirat al-Jasad (The Body’s Memory, or more loosely, Phantom Limb) was dedicated to her father and to Malek Haddad “… who swore after the independence of Algeria not to write in a language that is not his … martyr of the Arabic language and the first writer who decided to die in silence … and out of love for it.” Already an established poet and novelist in French, Haddad decided to put an end to his literary career in 1962. This brings to mind Marcel Duchamp, Glen Gould (although he renounced only live performances, but not playing the piano), and others. Yet, Haddad’s decision was very different: it was not an artistic statement, a disillusion with art or some of its forms, but rather a patriotic statement, an act of sacrifice, of martyrdom. Didn’t he write, “ I am less separated from my homeland by the Mediterranean than by the French language”? Isn’t his famous quote, “French is not my homeland; it is my exile” enough to explain this drastic act? Was relinquishing French his path back home, to the homeland from which he was linguistically exiled. This indeed was not the first sacrifice he made. He abandoned his studies of law in France and joined the Front de Libération National (FLN) contingent in Tunis. Committing to silence, however, is no mere sacrifice; it is literary suicide. He could not write in Arabic, his mother tongue, because the French banned it from schools. Ironically, his father taught French, and Haddad’s education, like many Algerians of his and previous generations was in a foreign literary canon. Dārija, the Arabic he spoke at home and in the street was not Fuṣḥā, the Arabic used for writing and reading the classics. The French language policy in its colonies, and particularly in Algeria, was not promoting bilingualism or multilingualism, but rather monolingualism. “You shall speak only my language,” though Homi Bhabha has clearly described the slippery slope of wanting the colonized to be copies of the colonizers, but not exactly. How dare Haddad vie with Aragon, although they were close friends, or Rushdie write in the language of Shakespeare? Haddad fell silent although he previously wrote anticipating the end of the Algerian war of independence: “the rifles will fall silent, but the pens will not.” Katib Yacine, Haddad’s fellow Algerian writer, countered, indirectly, with his famous  statement “The French language is one of the spoils of war.” Claivoyant as it was, Yacine’s view went against the nationalist grain of the time. Yet, Yacine himself was among those Algerian writers described by Haddad as “orphelins de vrais lecteurs,” writers without true readers, “ because, to begin with, those for whom we  write do not read us and will probably never do.” Even Yacine would eventually search for a way to bring his writing to the working class Algerian and Arabic speaking public, and he does so by writing plays in Dārija. Theater in dialect was the way for Yacine not to fall silent as Haddad did. Whether opting for silence or to write in the Algerian dialect, both were making a clear statement to the French former colonizers: “I shall not speak your Language.”

[1] The title is a reference to Kilito, Abdelfattah, Lan tatakallama lughatī (You Shall Not Speak My Language), Beirut, Dār al-Ṭalīʿa, 2002.


Strait Talk

Eric Calderwood (UIUC)

My contribution will focus on hip-hop artists who work at and across the shores of the Strait of Gibraltar, the narrow sliver of water that separates Morocco and Spain. The artists in question – such as the rappers Moro (based in Tangier) and Khaled (based in Granada and Barcelona) – work in Moroccan Arabic and Spanish (and occasionally in other languages). Their work will allow me to approach the problem of monolingualism from two angles. First, it will allow me to map the contours of “Spanish” and “Arabic” as linguistic categories and as cultural media. In so doing, I ask: how do these artists navigate the “straits” between these languages and, crucially, within them? Second, this topic allows me to think about the “language” of hip hop, a musical idiom that is global in scope and heterogeneous in its local practices. On this front, I ask: What does it mean for hip hop to “speak” in Morocco and Spain? Is the hip hop of the Strait of Gibraltar the same as, say, the hip hop of Atlanta? Is hip hop, in short, a single language? By focusing on multilingual hip hop from the Spanish-Moroccan borderlands, I hope to show that monolingualism is not only a problem of language but also one of forms. That is, it is not only a question of how to communicate within (or across) languages, but also a question of the cultural forms in which languages travel.


One Language/One Home: Monolingual Aspiration and Its Shortcomings Across Three Generations

Susan Choi (Yale)

I am the first person in three generations on my father’s side to be hopelessly monolingual - as in, unable to speak any language but English, the language in which I was raised.  I regard this as an enormous personal failing.  My father regards this as success, and likely his father before him would have agreed, not just despite his own multilingual existence but precisely because of it.

My paternal grandfather, whose name is most often now styled in English as Choe Chae-so, lived from 1908-1964 on the Korean peninsula.  He was born in what is now North Korea, two years prior to the annexation of Korea by the Japanese empire, and grew up under a Japanese colonial regime which sought to forcibly subsume Korean identity through law as well as via propagandistic efforts across culture and society.  My grandfather, a singularly stellar student of English literature at the Japanese Imperial University in Seoul, through his 20s and early 30s assumed and discarded multiple scholarly personae:  champion of Korean-language Korean modernists and explicator/translator of European modernists including Joyce;  editor/publisher of a Korean-language journal called “Humanities Review” which also offered space to the arguments of pro-Japan intellectuals;  and, finally, explicit pro-Japan apologist whose 1943 publication, “Korean Literature in a Time of Transition,” remains to this day the basis for his reputation as a national traitor, in a South Korea in which these matters remain as raw as they were a century ago.

My father emigrated from Seoul to the U.S. in 1955, arriving fluent in Korean - the language of his ancestors;  Japanese, the language of his childhood and all of his schooling;  and English, perhaps the language of his father’s heart.  Despite my grandfather’s initially advantageous, and later disastrous espousal of Japanese supremacy, all his life he had quietly made his soul’s home in English, devoting himself not to Japanese but to English literature, and teaching all six of his children an English that would afford them access to elite Western institutions.  My father married a non-Korean, English-speaking woman and when I was born, ensured I heard only English at home and encountered only English speakers; my father estranged himself from his entire family and his past history.  At the same time, he praised and cultivated my facility with English in part by telling me I shared my grandfather’s talents.  He never mentioned my grandfather’s political notoriety.

In his lifetime, my grandfather was dispossessed many times over:  of his original nation and culture;  of his achievements within the Japanese colonial paradigm, when these were refigured as betrayals of his blood;  of his birthplace and ancestral home in Haeju, after the creation of the two Koreas.  My father, too, was dispossessed of his childhood home in Haeju, then of the Japanese structure of his entire education, prior to the displacement of his emigration.  Unlike both of them, I have an intact birthplace and an intact homeland, and a single language coinciding with these, as well as with global power.  My conditions of life are just what my grandfather might have hoped for a descendent of his.  Yet I have felt myself to be lacking and inadequate for my entire adult life, because my speaking only English consigns me to being an outsider to everything Korean.  I am constantly seeking access the only way I know how:  through writing in English, whether my own, or that of others.  My grandfather published some work in English;  he translated from English;  he has been translated into English;  and he has now been the subject of a great deal of critical writing in English.  I gather all this English to me, but always with the sense that it is inferior, inauthentic, that if only I was fluent in Korean I would gain true access - but to what?  To a sense of belonging, of homeland, of authentic identity - the very conditions both my father and grandfather sought to ensure me by ‘monolingualizing’ me - by situating me squarely in English, with no internal divide?  The fact that monolingualism - as aspiration, as condition - seems to have failed us all equally suggests that perhaps our problem lies in our ascribing to language these qualities of undivided identity that language itself, in its inherent dividedness from all it seeks to represent - is simply unable to supply.


“The Jargon of Liberal Democracy”

Rey Chow (Duke)

In an academy increasingly oriented toward the injunction of diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI, the mention of monolingualism tends typically to be an occasion for virtue signaling. The term is usually brought up pejoratively to suggest exclusion, suppression of diversity, and lack of equity. Hence the reasonable argument by a theorist of language for the idea of a “postmonolingual condition” (Yildiz). Unlike other pejoratives, however, monolingualism carries within it a mathematical indicator and a scene of calculation: it is a discourse, an ism, of oneness. What exactly does mono mean in this instance? How is this counting, enumeration, and rationalization of one—of treating a language as a discrete entity—accomplished? More important, for whom and under what circumstances does the use of a certain language become a process of monolingualization? Taking this point of departure, this essay explores the ways monolingualism operates through the global circulation of a specific political ideology: liberal democracy. 


“Monolingualisms Without States; Monolingualisms as Anti-Humanisms”

Sarah Dowling (U of Toronto)

Monolingualism is closely aligned with the formation of the modern nation-state, whether in its nineteenth-century European version, or in its settler-colonial iterations in the Americas and elsewhere. In each instance, monolingualization played and still plays a crucial role in the shaping and building of national populations: monolingualism and monolingualization are critical to the “calculated management of life” through which Foucault defines biopolitics. Indeed, to trace the histories of monolingualism as population management is to write a longer, fuller history of biopolitics than Foucault managed, or perhaps envisioned. In this essay, however, I argue that to view monolingualism in this way only is to cede too much ground to the dominant, ideological, and state-based version of the monolingual: what of the other ways in which languages and their speakers are sustained and multiplied over time? I draw on emergent theories of care and recent work in Indigenous studies in order to think about other, oppositional forms of monolingualization, and the modes of population construction and sustenance that such monolingualisms—if we would even call them that—entail. The question animating this inquiry is, what would it mean to theorize monolingualism without recourse to the state? After all, the state is not the only entity whose work is “to ensure, sustain, and multiply life, to put this life in order,” to borrow another phrase from Foucault. Rather, as the linguist Bernard C. Perley (Maliseet) has recently argued, community practices of language sustenance and the revitalized language uses that are their result ought to be considered as “emergent vitalities,” as modes and forms of interdependent livingness. To take such anti- or non-state monolingualisms seriously—to consider languages as living entities in need of care and proliferation—is, I suggest, to engage in a rigorously anti-humanist mode of critical theory. Languages do not merely slip through and exceed states’ attempts at biopolitical management. Instead, these “other monolingualisms” challenge us to reformulate or abandon the critical concepts undergirding monolingualism, and so much critical theory: individual, family, culture, population, nation, state, and even life itself.


“Ernest Jones and the Case of the Stiff Upper Lip”

Juliet Fleming (NYU)

Because there is no natural property of language, language gives rise only to appropriative madness, to jealousy without appropriation. Language speaks this jealousy; it is nothing but jealousy unleashed -- Derrida, Monolingualism of the Other; or, the Prosthesis of Meaning

In 1920 Ernest Jones suggested that the striking insistence on propriety that he (as a Welshman) took to be characteristic of the English national character might be attributed to the co-existence, and gradual coalescence into modern English, of the Saxon and Norman languages. As Jones saw it, older, Saxon, words retain for English speakers their primitive capacity ‘to arouse plastic images and feeling-tone’; while words more newly derived from Latin and French are comparatively detached from infantile or archaic passions, with the result that they allow for greater intellectual abstraction and a ‘valuable saving in expenditure of emotional energy’. Moreover, French and Latin words comprise a reservoir of terms with which the English can express forbidden ideas while repressing the feelings that would otherwise attach to them. Jones proposed that it is this ‘double stratum’ of words in English that explains the Englishman’s ‘absence of social gifts, and the dislike of betraying emotion of any kind,’ for in circumstances where it is ‘unusually easy to give vocal expression to forbidden ideas in a way that inhibits the development of feeling’ feeling will ‘be more readily and extensively inhibited’.

Already, the brilliance and the shortcomings of Jones’s argument are hard to overlook. But there is, of course, another shoe to drop. For where a social psychologist like William McDougall might, Jones felt, describe the English ‘proneness to reserve’ as an indication that they lack ‘self-regard,’ psychoanalysts like himself would call attention to the secondary nature of the phenomenon ‘as indicating the existence a reaction-formation’: ‘Indeed, that something is being actively controlled or avoided is fairly evident; [we] would probably ascribe the traits [of reserve] to a reaction against more than one complex, repressed exhibitionism being perhaps the most prominent’. Instead of indicating a lack of self-regard, English propriety (and, it follows, the proper use of English) should be read as an inverted form of libidinally motivated self-display.

Like Jones, who was a committed member of the Welsh Nationalist Party but who, to his own regret, never became fluent in Welsh, I have to write this essay, largely about English, in English. This means that at every moment what we say is all too likely to be disproved by the language in which we say it. Early in his essay, when Jones is speaking as an Englishman to describe our national character, he says that our characteristic insistence on propriety is ‘probably to be correlated in some degree’ with ‘the horror of self-display, vaunting, braggadocio, gasconade, rodomontade – one sees that we have to use foreign terms to indicate attitudes so foreign to us – which also belong to the judgments passed on the English by foreigners’. In the place where he is insisting on the English horror of self-display, indeed within the same words that he is using for that job, Jones suddenly exhibits his own credentials as master of an English literary tradition whose riches are drawn from its long contact with the Romance languages. It is as if a peacock had suddenly opened his tail feathers at the very moment he was claiming to be a pigeon.

My aim in this essay is to demonstrate that, even for the most affordanced of monolingual speakers, the terrain of the mother tongue is far from secure. On the contrary, it is a battleground, teeming with anxiety, envy and exhibitionism and (by way of compensation) with a violent but hopeless – or violent because hopeless -- commitment to propriety.


"The Monolingual Image: Mesoamerican Iconography in Latinx Anime"

Edgar Garcia (U of Chicago)

Departing from considerations of monolingualism in spoken language, this essay will dive into the monolingualism of written languages, especially the pictographic and hieroglyphic languages of Mesoamerica—teasing out the monolingualism of the visual. To do so, it will track the reception of pictorial languages in contemporary Latinx anime. In doing so, it will constellate cultural legacies from Central America, Mexico, United States, and indeed Japan, while also complicating that constellation. Most importantly, because this is a short essayistic endeavor, it will proceed by putting itself inside its object of inquiry, moving through a series of vignettes to depict what happens to the visual repertoires of a few representative works of Latinx animated cinema when their Mesoamerican visual linguistic forms are foregrounded.  


“Marh ma shay”: Languages of Narratives of Refuge

B. Venkat Mani (UW-Madison)

This paper takes as its starting point a greeting in Pashto: “Marh ma shay”—may you not die—used on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to draw attention to the precarious nature of human lives in conflict zones. Drawing on, but also parting ways with construction and critique of monolingualism through colonialism (Mbembe) or a descriptive mode of naming the term monolingualism through temporal qualifiers such as “post-“ (Yildiz), in my paper I think through the inherent multilingualism within a specific language that shapes and forms narratives of refuge. To this end, I draw attention to the connections between named and unnamed mono- and multi-lingualisms, which I argue must be undertaken in tandem to understand refugee narratives. Furthermore, I argue that wresting mono- and multi-lingual studies from Euro- American models and historical sensitivity can draw new ways of critiquing and understanding “dominant” languages of the global south. 


"National Monolingualism and Rhetorics of Empire in the Age of Johnson"

Janet Sorensen (UC Berkeley)

Christopher Cannon and Susan Koshy have observed, “we often historicize the literary by naming the language a period comprises.” We might say, then, that eighteenth-century British literature has been named for the specific language—and conception of language—that Samuel Johnson’s standardizing practices helped put into place. The “Age of Johnson” denotes a time of grammars, dictionaries, and elocution lectures institutionalizing English monolingualism. It also names an age of anthologies, biographies, and critical reviews (all often evaluating the language of the texts they assemble and discuss) that established a canon of what we now call English literature. In short, the “Age of Johnson” designates a key moment in the entwined histories of English monolingualism and the disciplinary orientations of English literary studies. This “Age,” however, was also one of Britain’s increasing imperial dominance. This paper explores the relation of Britain’s maritime empire to this crucial moment of English monolingualism. Specifically, it investigates English monolingualism’s negotiations of internal linguistic heterogeneity—including provincial and Scots languages, technical and laboring languages, criminal argot—through rhetorics of empire. Texts representing the language of internal “others,” from Cornish farmers to world-travelling mariners to transient laborers, deploy a rhetoric of the strange and wondrous alien, a rhetoric familiar from the voyage narratives generated out of maritime empire, to characterize domestic heterogeneity. Glossaries and dictionaries of “provincial tongues” and “cant” deploy a rhetoric of imperial accumulation. Reducing languages of domestic “others” to lists of words, sorted and sold, these glossaries and dictionaries situate the words they collect as akin to imported riches adding to the wealth of the nation. The odd appearance of these rhetorics of empire at a key juncture for English monolingualism and canon formation profoundly troubles notions of a supposedly monolingual English language and literature


"English as an Additional Language"

Rebecca Walkowitz (Rutgers)

 The recent movement in Writing Studies and Sociolinguistics from teaching “English as a Foreign Language” to teaching “English a Second Language” and now to teaching “English as an Additional Language” signals one key effort to recognize the simultaneity and relativity of language knowledge and the presence of intralingualism within national cultures.   The change in monikers reminds us that we are all English language learners, and that there are always additional languages to learn.  But it also reminds us that, because other languages exist alongside and inside any dominant idiom, being an English language learner isn’t enough even for fluency in English.  The future of any truly capacious, multilateral literary history will require engaging robustly and generously with the history of language contact, the history of media, the changing shape of languages across and within our comunidad.


"Alcuin at Aachen"

Nicholas Watson (Harvard)

From a European perspective, the idea of official monolingualism is a product of the late eighth century C.E., and was masterminded by the Northumbrian philologist and theologian Alcuin (d. 804), principal intellectual advisor to Charlemagne. Alcuin seems to have drafted the two major statements on language issued by Charlemagne in 789-91, one as part of the Admonitio generalis (instructions for everyone), which instructs bishops, abbots, and others to establish grammar schools and develop protocols for correcting errors in copies of the sacred writings; the other in the more targeted Epistola de litteris colendis (letter on promoting learning), aimed at regularizing and correcting spoken and written Latin.  Once understood as clinching evidence for the barbarous Latinity of the eastern, Germanic-speaking half of the Carolingian Empire, the purpose of these documents was first parsed correctly by the Romance philologist Roger Wright in the early 1980s. Wright showed that Alcuin’s actual target was the vernacularization of Latin under way in the western, Romance-speaking half, where Latin was not yet understood as distinct from local spoken dialects of “Vulgar Latin'' that were precursors of modern “French,” “Italian,” “Catalan,” and others. Alcuin sought to impose a standardized phonetic Latin (the Latin spoken and written by Germanic intellectuals such as himself) on the plethora of Vulgar Latins in formal as well as informal use in ecclesiastical and other official contexts. Wright’s controversial but now widely accepted argument was that this project was slowly successful, to the extent that it can be used to explain, for example, the timelag between the first major bodies of writing in Celtic, Germanic, and Slavonic languages (600s, 700s, 800s respectively) and those of Romance languages (1100s, French and Catalan/Provençal, late 1200s, Italian etc.). On a still larger scale, it is also a crucial and neglected episode in the history of Latin as one of the world’s most important languages not to be undergirt by any speech community.

My paper depends on Wright’s argument in its mature form, but focuses attention on its importance for languages other than Romance ones, situating Carolingian monolingualism within the wider language politics of the eighth- ninth-, and tenth-century Christian Europe, much of it organized around the distinction between sacred and non-sacred languages. Hebrew, Greek, and Latin were sacred languages, used on the inscription Pontius Pilate placed on the head of Christ’s cross. Their use was irreproachable.  The situation with other languages was more complicated.  All were created as a result of human sin, after the dispersal of people and tongues at the fall of the Tower of Babel; yet all were also arguably redeemed by the miracle of tongues on the day of Pentecost. Moreover, there were urgent practical reasons for using them in writing, government, and worship. Irish, English, and western Slavic scholars were all preoccupied with this topic and developed widely different solutions to it that supported the development of written and liturgical traditions in those languages.  In the last part of the paper, I explore the relationship between Alcuin’s standardization of Carolingian Latin and the later standardization of written Old English in particular.


Participant Bios

Faith E. Beasley

Faith E. Beasley is Professor of French at Dartmouth College. A specialist of early modern French culture, she specializes in the construction of history and memory especially as this pertains to marginalized groups. Her publications include Revising Memory: Women’s Fiction and Memoirs in Seventeenth-Century France (1990) and Salons, History, and the Creation of Seventeenth-Century France: Mastering Memory (2006). Her most recent book, Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal (2018), explores the encounter between France and India during France’s Grand Siècle as mediated by worldly culture. She is currently working on a translation of François Bernier’s Voyages, as well a French edition of Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal.


Taoufik Ben Amor

Taoufik Ben Amor is Gordon Gray Jr. Senior Lecturer in Arabic Studies at Columbia University. His research focuses on the intersection of language, music and identity. He published three textbooks and a number of papers including “Language Through Literature,” and “Making Tradition: Standardization of the Tunisian Andalusian Maluf Repertoire.” He is currently working on a book entitled Beyond Orientalism: Arab Music and Modernity, to be published by Brill in 2022. He is an active musician and music producer.


Eric Calderwood

Eric Calderwood is an Associate Professor in the Program in Comparative and World Literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he is also currently appointed a Conrad Humanities Scholar. Calderwood’s first book, Colonial Al-Andalus: Spain and the Making of Modern Moroccan Culture (Harvard University Press 2018) has won several awards, including the 2019 AIMS Book Prize in North African Studies. The book has been translated into Spanish, and an Arabic translation is forthcoming. He has published essays in several journals, including PMLA, the Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies, and the International Journal of Middle East Studies. He is currently at work on a second book project, tentatively titled The Future of Al-Andalus.


Chris Cannon

Chris Cannon is Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of English and Classics and Vice Dean for the Humanities and Social Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. He is a medievalist who has written books about the origins of Chaucer’s English, literary form in early Middle English, and elementary learning and the grammaticalization of English in the 14th century. He is currently working on the idea of the vernacular as it may (or may not) apply to Latin in the European Middle Ages as well as on dictation as a mode of textual transmission.


Susan Choi

Susan Choi is the author of five novels, most recently Trust Exercise, which received the 2019 National Book Award for fiction.  Earlier this year her story “Flashlight” received the 2021 Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award.  She has also been recipient of the Asian-American Literary Award for fiction, the PEN/W.G. Sebald Award, a Lamba Literary award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, and been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award. She teaches fiction writing at Yale and lives in Brooklyn.


Rey Chow

Rey Chow is Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Duke University, where she was a former director of the Program in Literature. Since 1991 she has authored ten monographs on literature, film, and cultural and representational politics pertaining to modern China and East Asia, Western Europe, and North America. Her writings are widely anthologized and translated, appearing in numerous Asian and European languages. Her new book, A Face Drawn in Sand: Humanistic Inquiry and Foucault in the Present, published in 2021 by Columbia UP, draws on Foucault’s definition of “outside” in order to address in-depth the plight and potentiality of the humanities in the age of global finance and neoliberal mores.


Sarah Dowling

Sarah Dowling is an assistant professor in the Centre for Comparative Literature and Victoria College at the University of Toronto. Sarah is the author of Translingual Poetics: Writing Personhood under Settler Colonialism, which received an honorable mention for the American Studies Association’s Lora Romero Award. In addition, Sarah has written three poetry collections: Security Posture, DOWN, and Entering Sappho, which was shortlisted for the Derek Walcott Poetry Prize. Currently, Sarah is at work on a book about lying down in contemporary literature. 


Juliet Fleming

Juliet Fleming (she/her)  is Professor of English at New York University.  She is the author of Graffiti and the Writing Arts of Early Modern England (2001) and Cultural Graphology: Writing After Derrida (2016).  Her work combines an abiding interest in book/non -book history (including graffiti and tattooing) with a committed reading of Derrida and Freud: her current project takes as its starting point the physiological syndrome of trypophobia (fear of holes). 


Edgar Garcia

Edgar Garcia is a poet and scholar of the hemispheric cultures of the Americas. He is the author of Skins of Columbus: A Dream Ethnography (Fence Books, 2019); Signs of the Americas: A Poetics of Pictography, Hieroglyphs, and Khipu (University of Chicago Press, 2020); Infinite Regress (Bom Dia Books, 2021); and Emergency: Reading the Popol Vuh in a Time of Crisis (University of Chicago Press, 2022). He is Associate Professor in the department of English at the University of Chicago, where he also teaches in the department of Creative Writing.


Susan Koshy

Susan Koshy is Director of the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory and Associate Professor of English and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of Sexual Naturalization: Asian Americans and Miscegenation  (Stanford, 2004), which won the Choice Outstanding Academic Book Award; and co-editor of Transnational South Asians (Oxford, 2008) and Colonial Racial Capitalism (Duke, 2022). She has published more than twenty articles on Asian American literature, cosmopolitanism, transnational feminist theory, human rights, comparative racialization, South Asian diasporic literature, immigration and naturalization law, and contemporary ethnic literature in PMLA, ALH, Yale Journal of Criticism, Boundary 2, Differences, Diaspora, Social Text, and in several anthologies. 


B. Venkat Mani

B. Venkat Mani is Professor of German and World Literature and Race, Ethnicity and Indigeneity Senior Fellow at the Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.He is the author of Cosmopolitical Claims: Turkish German Literatures from Nadolny to Pamuk (University of Iowa Press, 2007) and Recoding World Literature: Libraries, Print Culture, and Germany’s Pact with Books (Fordham UP, 2017; winner of GSA's DAAD Prize and MLA’s Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Best Book in German Studies 2018) as co-editor, A Companion to World Literature (Wiley Blackwell 2020), and as editor, most recently for German Quarterly, of "Against Isolationist Readings: A Forum on World Literature.” In addition, he has published essays on diversity and inclusive teaching, the Indian farmer’s movement, and Punjabi literature in Inside Higher Ed, TeloScope, and The Wire (Hindi). 


Janet Sorensen

Janet Sorensen is the author of two books, The Grammar of Empire in Eighteenth-Century British Writing and Strange Vernaculars: How Eighteenth-Century Slang, Cant, Provincial Languages and Nautical Jargon Became English and co-editor of Scotland and the Borders of Romanticism and The International Companion to Scottish Literature in the Long Eighteenth Century. She has published articles on Scots language in poetry, novels, and antiquarian writing of the seventeenth through early nineteenth centuries. Her current research is on relations between maritime writing, from logbooks to voyage narratives, and innovations in early novel narrative structure. She teaches in the Department of English at the University of California, Berkeley.


Rebecca Walkowitz

Rebecca Walkowitz is Dean of Humanities, Distinguished Professor of English, and Affiliate Faculty in Comparative Literature at Rutgers University. She is author or editor of 10 books, including Born Translated: The Contemporary Novel in an Age of World Literature (2015; forthcoming 2021, Japanese) and Cosmopolitan Style: Modernism Beyond the Nation (2006). Her current project, “Future Reading,” focuses on new experiments in multilingual writing. An essay taken from the first chapter, On Not Knowing, appeared in New Literary History in 2020.  A second essay from that project, Less Than One Language, appeared in SubStance in 2021, in a special issue on The Postlingual Turn, co-edited with yasser elhariry. 


Nicholas Watson

Nicholas Watson works on the history of textuality in Britain and northern Europe between the eighth and sixteenth centuries, with emphases on religious pedagogy, on visionary writing, especially by women, and on the developing concept of the vernacular. He has written on a range of subjects in literary and religious history, political theology, editorial theory, sociolinguistics, and historiography. Next year, U Penn Press is publishing his two most recent books, What Kind of a Thing is a Middle English Lyric? co-edited with Cristina Maria Cervone, and the first volume of a trilogy, Balaam’s Ass: Vernacular Theology Before the English Reformation.