DATE: Monday, February 11th 2013

TIME: 2pm – 5pm

LOCATION: School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies (SSEES), University College London. (Room TBC)


The Birth and Death of Modern Literary Theory: Eight Years Later

‘In the second decade of the 21st century we seem better positioned to recognise and admit the demise of literary theory as a distinct discipline of scholarship.’

Prof. Galin Tihanov (Common Knowledge: 2004)

Professor Tihanov’s influential article, published in Common Knowledge eight years ago, presents an ambitious overview of the rise and fall of one of the 20th century’s dominant intellectual currents, that of literary theory, and its relation to the cultural space of Russia and Eastern Europe.

In it, Prof. Tihanov examines literary theory’s roots in philosophy, its emergence in response to the changing social relevance of literature in inter-war Eastern Europe and the impact of institutional factors arising from 20th century nation-building processes. However, the conclusion is that recent changes in the configuration of these broad factors have also resulted in the irrevocable decline of literary theory as a distinct intellectual project.

This postgraduate research training masterclass, organized by CEELBAS, aims to offer students working in the domain of literature and culture an opportunity to explore the implications of these broad intellectual histories in relation to their own research methodologies.

The half-day workshop will consist firstly of a masterclass led by Prof. Tihanov himself, on the themes of his article in light of his recent work. This will be followed by a panel session of three presentations where PhD students will discuss the role of theoretical models in their own approaches to literature and culture.

We are now inviting proposals from CEELBAS university postgraduates for this student panel. Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words for a 15-20 minute presentation to by Friday 30th November.


Attendance is free and open to all but places are limited and must be pre-booked. Priority will be given to postgraduate students from one of the CEELBAS universities: Bath, Birmingham, Cambridge, Kent, Manchester, Oxford, Sheffield, Warwick, SOAS and UCL

In order to register, send an email with details of your name, home institution, PhD topic and contact details to

Transport costs can be reimbursed on a first come first served basis, up to the value of 65 GBP per applicant.

About the keynote speaker:

Galin Tihanov holds the George Steiner Chair of Comparative Literature at Queen Mary, University of London. He was previously Professor of Comparative Literature and Intellectual History and founding co-director of the Research Institute for Cosmopolitan Cultures at the University of Manchester. His most recent research has been on exile, cosmopolitanism, and transnationalism. His publications include three books and a number of (co)edited volumes, as well as articles on German, Russian, French, and Central-European intellectual and cultural history and on cultural and literary theory. Some of his work has been translated into Bulgarian, Danish, French, German, Macedonian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, and Slovene. He is currently completing books on the uses of the Romantic tradition in twentieth-century European and American culture and on Russian literary and cultural theory between the World Wars.