A World of Myths: World Literature and Storytelling in Canongate’s Myths series

  • Datum:
  • Plats: Universitetshuset IV, Biskopsgatan 3, 75310, Uppsala
  • Doktorand: Nauwerck, Malin
  • Om avhandlingen
  • Arrangör: Litteraturvetenskapliga institutionen
  • Kontaktperson: Nauwerck, Malin
  • Disputation

This thesis discusses contemporary publishing within the global, literary system through the prism of the transnational publishing project the Myths series, initiated by Scottish publishing house Canongate Books in 2005.

By combining the perspectives of world literature studies and sociology of literature, I explore the conception, development and communication around the Myths series (today published in forty countries) in relation firstly to the contemporary changes in the publishing industry, situated within a more general literary debate on globalisation and cultural diversity and secondly the rise of a social order epitomised under the umbrella term “new economy”, in which the practice of strategic communication or marketing storytelling has become increasingly common.

Within these frames, this thesis considers the history of Canongate books and its frontman, the publisher Jamie Byng, and compares the translation, adaptation and marketing of the Myths series in the United Kingdom and Sweden. I argue that the Myths series can be understood as a reaction to a globalised and conglomerated book market as well as an independent publisher’s strategy of imitating conglomerates in creating globally convergent content. This takes place however from a cultural and linguistic centre, affecting the outcome of this conceptualised product of the literary system, also understood as ‘born world literature’. A finding of this thesis is that the relations between centre and periphery within the global literary system take concrete form in glocalising publishing practises, but also that this perspective of dominance and submission can be applied to marketing storytelling. I explore the process of transference of storytelling between agents such as publishers, authors, journalists and literary critics, arguing that the guiding master narratives typical of the literary field themselves can be viewed through the prism of the global literary system. In a case study of Margaret Atwood’s role in the Myths series and an in-depth reading of her Myths title The Penelopiad (2005), I show how marketing storytelling can constitute an integral part of a literary work, as well as how Atwood, a star in the firmament of world literature, negotiates the Myths concept in relation to her own position, poetics and public persona.