21st World congress of the International Comparative Literature Association #

“The Many Languages of Comparative Literature”#

From 21 to 27 July 2016, the International Comparative Literature Association (ICLA) will hold its XXI. World Congress in the main building of the University of Vienna. This congress is dedicated to the main topic “The Many Languages of Com-parative Literature / Die vielen Sprachen der Literaturwissenschaft/ La littérature comparée: multiples langues, multiples langages”. At least 1,000 active participants from every continent are expected. The last congress at the Sorbonne (Paris 2013) could welcome 1.500 guests.

Comparative Literature is the traditional term for international, multi-lingual and cross-cultural studies on world literature. Therefore, the ICLA is a large and genuinely international professional association with members among scholars from practically all important universities of the world.

Since 1955 World Congresses are held at intervals of three years, previously hosted by the Universities in Venice (I), Chapel Hill (NC / USA), Utrecht (NL), Fribourg (CH), Belgrade (YU), Bordeaux (F), Montreal / Ottawa (CDN), Budapest (HU) , Innsbruck (A), New York (USA), Paris (F), Munich (Germany), Tokyo (JPN), Edmonton (CDN), Leiden (NL), Pretoria (SA), Hong Kong (C), Rio de Janeiro (BR), Seoul (KOR) and Paris (F).

Host of the 2016 congress will be the University of Vienna, represented by the Department of Comparative Literature within the Faculty of Philological and Cultural Studies. The Congress provides, divided into several thematic clusters, specific group sections with seminars and workshops as well as numerous individual presentations, prominent lectures by renowned experts and last but not least four keynotes by internationally renowned authors. Further readings are planned for the supporting programme. Various excursions and sightseeing are offered to the participants on their free day (24 July). A book exhibition of international publishing companies specialised in literary studies will take place parallel to the congress in the main building of the University of Vienna. The event management of the University of Vienna is partially entrusted with the realization of this project. Responsible for the organization is the organizing team of the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Vienna (Chair: Prof. Dr. Achim Hermann Hölter).

Main topic:#

The comparison of literary texts from different cultural spheres and in different languages was at the origin of comparative literature. The transgression of borders between languages is still an essential operation, even after numerous changes of comparatist paradigms and the extension of the fields of activity in comparative literary criticism.

For the first time, the theme of a congress organized by the International Comparative Literature Association will be “language” – language in all its meanings and embedded in various contexts: as a “national“ idiom, the basis of literary texts, as source-language and target-language in literary translation, as the set of languages forming “world literature” in its literary manifestation (and as the canon of languages “world literature” is actually concentrating on). And language – both written and spoken – is not just the self-evident medium of all objects of comparative literature, but also the indispensable meta-language of scientific discourse and poetological terminology. The multilingualism of comparative literature is both a challenge and an opportunity: from its beginnings, the polymorph diversity of world literature has constituted the attraction and surplus of comparatist reading; on the other hand, even the most accomplished polyglot comparatist can master only a relatively small range of languages. This fact conditions the discourse more than might be apparent in a knowledge culture increasingly influenced by the English language.

The congress will also focus on language in its broadest sense: the usage of language by social and ethnic groups as vectors of literature, the language of themes and discourses, language as a literary subject, language as the expression of central problems and ideas negotiated in various literatures of the world, and even in its metaphorical sense, as “languages” of styles and forms. As an infinite code with constant need for decryption, the international sign system of literature perpetually reproduces the myth of the confusion of tongues and sets new tasks to multilingual humanity: its literature and its criticism.

Conference site#

Date: July 21st – 27th 2016
University of Vienna

Universitätsring 1

A-1010 Vienna, Austria
Map link






  • Philologisch-Kulturwissenschaftliche Fakultät, Universität Wien
  • Institut für Europäische und Vergleichende Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft, Philologisch-Kulturwissenschaftliche Fakultät, Universität Wien
  • Institut für Germanistik, Philologisch-Kulturwissenschaftliche Fakultät, Universität Wien
  • Wiener Verein für Komparatistik

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