Three years of international collaboration among humanities scholars culminated in two interdisciplinary events in Beijing, China during 2011. Georgia State University faculty members participated in the First Congress of the World Literature Association, June 30 to July 3, 2011, at Peking University in Beijing, followed by the activities of the third Tri-National Summer School, July 4 to 11, 2011, at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. Three GSU faculty members presented at these two events, Professor John Burrison, the folklorist in the Department of English, Richard Laub, the director of the GSU Program in Heritage Preservation, and Professor Glenn T. Eskew from the Department of History. All three delivered scholarly papers at the conference and then engaged the summer seminar by presenting talks while leading discussions with faculty and graduate students.
The initial collaboration that resulted in these international exchanges began under the auspices of Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, when it hosted the first Tri-National Summer School in 2009. The opportunity arose because of the longstanding relationship between the universities in Mainz and Atlanta that GSU Department of English Professor Reiner Smolinski has nurtured for many years. In August 2009, GSU faculty joined colleagues from Johannes Gutenberg University and Peking University in the interdisciplinary humanities program. For two intense weeks of study, faculty and graduate students from China, Germany and the United States engaged the theme of “Transnational American Studies: The South in Global Perspectives.” Finding the exchange fruitful, participants decided to meet the next year in Atlanta. The Tri-National Summer School continued in 2010, when faculty and students from China and Germany traveled to the United States where, for two weeks in the Deep South, they joined faculty and graduate students from Georgia State University in a series of lectures and field trips that included travel to historic sites in Atlanta, Madison, Eatonton, and Milledgeville, Georgia, and Tuskegee, Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham, Alabama. The summer seminar culminated in attendance at the William Faulkner Conference at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. The second Tri-National Summer School discussed the theme “The South in the Age of Obama.”
With China slated to host the faculty and graduate students in 2011, scholars at Peking University decided to concurrently schedule the first conference of the World Literature Association as a three-day kickoff for the two-week third Tri-National Summer School. This broadened the roster of participating faculty by expanding the presentations at the summer seminar to include those involved in the WLA program. With its theme of “The Rise of World Literatures,” the WLA conference began the two weeks of intensive study. Keynoters included Professors Zhao Baisheng of Peking University (the host of the conference), David Damrosch of Harvard University, Robert Dixon of the University of Sydney, Bhekizizwe Peterson of the University of the Witwaterstrand, Alfred Hornung, Johannes Gutenberg University—Mainz, Francis Marmande of the University of Paris—Diderot, Sayed Gouda of City University of Hong Kong, Femi Osofisan of the University of Ibadan, Werner Frick of the Albert Ludwigs University—Freiburg, Jean Bessiere of the University de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, and Gayatri C. Spivak of Columbia University, among others. In addition to these keynote presenters and the three GSU faculty members, other leading scholars involved in both events included Professors Oliver Scheiding of Johannes Gutenberg-University—Mainz and Xu Dejin of the University of International Business and Economics, Beijing.
During the World Literature Association’s meeting, the GSU faculty delivered papers and engaged in discussion with some of the two hundred participants attending the international conference. Professor John Burrison presented his paper, “A Nation of Narrators: Traditional Storytelling in the United States,” Mr. Laub delivered his presentation, “Maintaining the Historic Homes of America’s Great Writers,” and Professor Eskew read his presentation, “Johnny Mercer and Moon River: Transnational Song as World Literature.” Similarly during the Tri-National Summer School that continued into the next week, Dr. Burrison performed his work, “Traditional Storytelling: The American South’s First Literature and Its Global Sources” while Dr. Eskew delivered his presentation, “The Southern Diaspora and the Global Spread of Jazz.”
Such international exchanges as the WLA Conference and the Tri-National Summer School benefit faculty and students greatly.
Videos for the events held in 2010 and 2011 can be found at the links to the right of this page.