From Gilgamesh to Harry Potter
Martin Puchner and Helge Jordheim
What came first – the world as we know it, or the stories about the world? All continents have their foundational myths and literary traditions, many of which has affected the course of world history.
What role has myths and stories played in the formation of nations, like the role played by the legend of Sundiata in the West African kingdom Mali? Or the importance of the Iliad for Alexander the Great – who slept with the book under his pillow as he tried to recreate its literary battles during his own conquests.
Central works and explanatory models emphasized in literary history are largely dominated by a Western perspective. With that, we risk missing crucial insights if we want to understand literature and its influence on a global level. Did you know, for instance, that China for years monopolized the world’s paper production? And is it really true that Don Quixote was the world’s first novel?
When you write the history of the written word, it becomes a history of how the world came to be what it is. What is the literature changing and impacting the world today?
A Professor at Harvard University, Martin Puchner is one of the world’s leading literary scholars and critics, and has, among other things, worked with revolutionary poetry and Ibsen’s plays. In his recent book The Written World, he takes a closer look at how literature has shaped world history and the cultures of the world together with the technological development from oral storytelling to writing, from clay tablet to e-books and from the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh epic to the Harry Potter universe.
Puchner will give us the literary history in brief, before he joins Professor of Cultural History Helge Jordheim for a conversation about how literature shapes the world.
The conversation will be held in English.