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Svend Erik Larsen (Aarhus University)


Svend Erik Larsen, dr. phil., Professor Emeritus, Comparative Literature, Aarhus University, Denmark. Yangtze River Distinguished Visiting Professor, Sichuan University, past Honorary Professor, University College London. Past editor of Orbis Litterarum, past Board Member of EuroScience, past Vice-President of Academia Europaea and past General Treasurer of the International Comparative Literature Association. Books in Chinese: Yingyong Fuhaoxue (2018, Sichuan University Press), Wu Bianjie Wenben: Wenxue Yu Quanqiuhua (2020, Sichuan University Press). Recent articles: ¡°World Literature in an Extended Media Landscape,¡± The Journal of English Language and Literature 63.4, 2017: 675-686; ¡°Various Theories ¨C and Variation Theory,¡± Cultural Studies and Literary Theory 38, 2018: 13-32; ¡°Shijie Wenxue Zhong De Yimin Yu Fanyi¡±, in Zhang Cha, ed.: Waiguo Yuwen Luncong Di-ba Ji, Sichuan University Press, 2018: 68-86; ¡°Narratives as cultural embedment,¡± Chinese Semiotic Studies 18.3, 2022: 413-425. Co-author and co-editor of Landscapes of Realism 1-2. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2021-2022. (See complete CV and bibliography:



A Realism of Conflicting Ontologies


If modern realism traveled from Europe to other continents during the nineteenth century, the encounter with literary traditions in those countries broke this unidirectional trajectory. The encounter both shed light on the particularity of European realism and transformed it by opening writers to more diversified notions of what realism might be than envisioned by early writers and critics. From a one-way or maybe a two-way traffic across countries and continents realism became a multi-directional literary and aesthetic enterprise. This process inspired a questioning of the dynamics and the limits of realism which has nurtured realism across the world in the twentieth and into the twenty-first century. It has happened in an open global cultural and literary exchange between writers, texts, translations and media that relativized pre-established monolithic ideas about centers and peripheries and showed the existence of more complex global networks. One issue stands out in today¡¯s cross-cultural context of realist writing which attracted little or no attention within a local or regional cultural context characterized by a tacit agreement on the ontological question: what do we regard as real? In local circles, discussions of realism rather focus on aesthetic strategies with regard to characters, narration, imaginary language, intermedia and interart perspectives. Today, I will explore conflicting ontologies in realism as they frame the novel by the Nigerian writer Chigozie Obioma: An Orchestra of Minorities (2019).