The Novel and its Place in the World

A Duke conference will examine the novel's role in an increasingly global literary world

Author Amitav Ghosh will headline a Duke University conference later this month examining the novel and its place in the world.

The conference, "Novel Worlds," will be held April 27-28 at the Washington Duke Inn. There are registration fees, but Ghosh's talk at 4 p.m. Friday, April 27 at the Nasher Museum of Art will be free and open to the public. 

About 125 participants will take part in 26 panel discussions analyzing the role the novel plays in a changing, global society, said Duke English professor Nancy Armstrong, the conference organizer.

"Novels used to be specific to a nation and talk about the development of an individual as it would the development of a nation," Armstrong said. "We're especially interested in what's happening now -- that so many of our best novels aren't grounded in a nation but are considered world novels."

Ghosh is among those novelists working the global stage, Armstrong said. A native of India, he has written eight novels, many of them prize winning, and has published essays in The New Yorker, The New York Times and The New Republic. 

"Ghosh was the perfect person for this occasion," Armstrong said. "Even when he's talking about India in detail -- a world many of us don't know anything about -- he writes in such a way that any reader of English fiction can read him. He's a scholar's novelist, but he's a popular novelist as well."

Ghosh is one of three keynote speakers during the conference. He'll be joined by French philosopher and cultural theorist Jacques Ranciere and Rebecca Walkowitz, a prominent professor of contemporary literature who teaches at Rutgers University.

The conference is the maiden effort of The Society for Novel Studies, a professional organization formed last year by Armstrong, the longtime editor of the scholarly journal "Novel: A Forum on Fiction". Armstrong anticipates that the society will hold similar conferences every two years.

Registration information is available on the conference website, and single-day rates for faculty and students are available.