Family Sagas in World Literatures and Audio-Visual Cultures: Reimagining Nations Across the Globe

A conference to bring together researchers who specialise in different linguistic and cultural areas, working on different media.

Family Sagas in World Literatures and Audio-Visual Cultures: Reimagining Nations Across the Globe is a two-day interdisciplinary conference, jointly organized by the University of Leeds Centre for World Literatures and Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures, and sponsored by the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies (University of Leeds), the Leeds Humanities Research Institute (LHRI, University of Leeds), and the British Comparative Literature Association (BCLA).

It brings together researchers who are specialised in a variety of linguistic and cultural areas and who work on different media. The objective is to examine the circulation, forms, themes, and cultural functions of family sagas in world literatures and audio-visual cultures, including radio, cinema, and TV series.

The family saga is a constitutively transnational and multi-media genre, bridging highbrow and popular cultures. The genre counts some of the bestsellers of world literature, including not just novels, but also serial narratives (trilogies, cycles), and comics, ranging from the late nineteenth century up to the present day. As serial narratives with popular appeal, family sagas have also been adapted to or produced for cinema, radio, and TV. Examples of family sagas include:  Zola’s Les Rougon-Macquart, Eça de Queirós’s Os Maias, Mann’s Buddenbrooks, Woolf’s The Years, Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Haley’s Roots, Cunningham’s Flesh and Blood, Spiegelman’s Maus, Mo Yan’s Big Breasts and Wide Hips, Ferrante’s Neapolitan Cycle, Reitz’s Heimat, Giordana’s La meglio gioventù, Fellowes’ Downton Abbey.

These family stories represent metonymically and metaphorically the life of nations as subject to the vagaries of local and world history. Family sagas respond to the need to reimagine nations at times of crisis spurred by economic, social, and political change; gender, ethnic, religious, and class conflicts; demographic transitions; and migration. They question pre-existing normative ideals of the nation, giving voice to silenced minorities, functioning as a cultural tool for the immanent critique of the national imagery and identity. The family saga as a cultural genre is instrumental to a politics of aesthetics, since it challenges and redefines the partition of the sensible that frames the nation as an imagined community.

Keynote speakers

Dr Nicholas White, Reader in Modern French Literature (University of Cambridge), author of French Divorce Fiction from the Revolution to the First World War (2012) and of The Family in Crisis in Late Nineteenth-Century French Fiction (1999).

Dr Rachel Palfreyman, Associate Professor in German Studies (University of Nottingham), author of Edgar Reitz’s “Heimat”: histories, traditions, fictions ( (2000), and (together with Elizabeth Boa) of Heimat: a German dream: regional loyalties and national identity in German culture, 1890-1990 (2000).

Professor Jobst Welge, Professor of Comparative Literature (Stockholm University), and author of Genealogical Fictions: Cultural Periphery and Historical Change in the Modern Novel (2014)

Download the programme (PDF 79.57KB)

British Comparative Literature Association