“Let's talk about something more cheerful. Have you heard any news of the cholera [...]?” (Sholem Aleichem)
Literature has engaged with epidemics and pandemics in manifold ways. Authors of various times and cultures have sought for different aesthetic answers to process and mediate experiences of loss, death, fear, social and political destabilization connected with historical epidemics; they have used fictive epidemical and pandemical scenarios to rethink our concepts of society, state or world; and they have addressed the question of the relationship between the creative forces of art and the destructive forces of the epidemic.
The CATS project “Epochal Life Worlds: Man, Nature and Technology in Narratives of Crisis and Change”, which is part of the Joint Center for Advanced Studies “Worldmaking from a Global perspective: A Dialogue with China” and cooperates closely with the Thematic Research Network “Umwelten – Umbrüche – Umdenken” engages with moments of crisis and epochal change – such as epidemics – and the intricate interplay of challenge, transformation and rethinking. In a little workshop series, we would like to create a dialogue between different works of world literature and to think about ways of engaging with the current pandemic in creative ways. In three digital reading and discussion sessions, we would like to address key aspects of the relationship of literature and epidemics: the interaction of fact and fiction, possibilities of ‘escaping’ the catastrophe in and through literature, and epidemics and dystopia. The reading material will be made available in the original language and in English and/or German translation. Moreover, we would like to invite participants to share with us their own creative and artistic engagements with the current pandemics, such as poetry, essays, paintings,…
We hope that we will be able to host a final meeting at the CATS library courtyard.
In addition, the workshops are in close dialogue with a series of events on viruses and literature organized by the Confucius Institute at Heidelberg University, so that we can also take our workshop discussions into a broader public realm.
If you are interested in participating, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
May 20, 4-6 p.m.: Fact and Fiction: Modes of Approaching Historical Epidemics (digital)
Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year (1722)
Heinrich Heine, The Plague in Paris (Ich rede von der Cholera) (1832)
Fang Fang 方方, Wuhan Diary (方方日记) (2020)
June 10, 4-6 p.m.: Escaping the Epidemic? Alternative Spaces in/of Literature (digital)
Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameron (Il Decamerone) (ca. 1353)
Alexander Pushkin, A Feast in Time of Plague (Пир во время чумы) (1830)
Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of the Cholera (El amor en los tiempos del cholera) (1985)
July 8, 4-6 p.m.: Epidemics and Dystopia (digital)
Mary Shelley, The Last Man (1826)
Albert Camus, The Plague (La Peste) (1947)
Chen Qiufan 陈楸帆, The Waste Tide (荒潮) (2013)