Pascale Casanova, 1959-2018

THE (Times Higher Education) - - NEWS - Matthew.reisz@timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­tion.com

A lead­ing fig­ure in world lit­er­ary stud­ies has died.

Pascale Casanova was born in Tours, France in 1959 and stud­ied for a bach­e­lor’s and then a mas­ter’s de­gree in lit­er­a­ture and phi­los­o­phy at the Univer­sity of Tours. From 1981 to 2010, she was a cen­tral fig­ure on the French cul­tural scene as a pro­ducer and pre­sen­ter for the France Cul­ture ra­dio sta­tion. Her pro­grammes such as Panorama, Jeudis lit­téraires, Mardis lit­téraires and L’ate­lier lit­téraire brought to pub­lic at­ten­tion im­por­tant and of­ten chal­leng­ing writ­ers from all over the world, while re­sist­ing pres­sure from pub­lish­ers to show­case more com­mer­cial au­thors.

A reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to mag­a­zines such as La Quin­zaine lit­téraire and Liber, Dr Casanova pub­lished her first book, Beck­ett l’ab­stracteur: anatomie d’une rev­o­lu­tion lit­téraire (trans­lated as Sa­muel Beck­ett: Anatomy of a Lit­er­ary Rev­o­lu­tion, 2006) in 1997. In the same year, she com­pleted a PhD, su­per­vised by the cel­e­brated so­ci­ol­o­gist Pierre Bour­dieu, at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences So­ciales, ex­plor­ing how lit­er­a­ture is pro­duced, cir­cu­lated and val­ued across the globe.

This later formed the ba­sis for her highly in­flu­en­tial book, La République mon­di­ale des Let­tres (1999), later pub­lished in English as The World Re­pub­lic of Letters (2004) as well as in lan­guages in­clud­ing Ara­bic, Ja­panese and Korean. Writ­ing in The New Yorker, Louis Me­nand de­scribed it as “[a] rather bril­liant book… Lit­er­a­ture de­part­ments are al­most al­ways or­gan­ised by lan­guage and coun­try, but Casanova’s book gives us many rea­sons to doubt whether this cap­tures the way lit­er­a­ture re­ally works. She has an ex­cel­lent ac­count, for ex­am­ple, of the in­ter­na­tional in­flu­ence of [Wil­liam] Faulkner – once his nov­els had been trans­lated into French.”

When Dr Casanova was sacked from France Cul­ture in 2010, 30 lead­ing writ­ers penned an open let­ter in protest. Al­though she had never held a per­ma­nent aca­demic post in France, she was an as­so­ciate re­searcher at the Cen­tre de Recherches sur les Arts et le Lan­gage, Paris and was one of the first schol­ars in­vited to teach at Har­vard Univer­sity’s In­sti­tute for World Lit­er­a­ture. She also served as a vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor in the depart­ment of Ro­mance stud­ies at Duke Univer­sity (2011-14), where she pre­sented ma­te­rial for her forth­com­ing book Kafka en colère (2011), trans­lated as Kafka, An­gry Poet (2015), al­though in­creas­ing ill health forced her to cut back on her ac­tiv­i­ties. Her fi­nal book,

La langue mon­di­ale: tra­duc­tion et dom­i­na­tion (2015), ex­plored trans­la­tion as a tool for re­sist­ing dom­i­na­tion by more “pres­ti­gious” lan­guages.

Dr Casanova died on 29 Septem­ber. She is sur­vived by her part­ner, Di­dier Giner.

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