International PEN and the Republic of Literature

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This chapter argues that the writers’ organisation, International PEN, founded in 1921, constitutes a concretised literary republic. It engages with recent modernist debates on the importance of literary transnationalism, both on the style and form of literature texts and their global transmission and meaning. It argues that the PEN organisation, which began to direct its energies into a form of literary free speech activism in the 1930s, alters the critical understanding of transnationalism. Rather than seeing the literary arena as distinct from other kinds of internationalism, this chapter claims that the structure and debates within PEN were similar to those taking place in the League of Nations and, later, the United Nations. Tracing debates around the League policy on ‘minority rights’, and PEN’s disputes about ‘national’ literatures, as well as PEN’s commitment to a language of ‘inalienable’ authorial rights in the 1930s, the links between political and literary internationalisms are exposed and analysed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCultural Organizations, Networks and Mediators in Contemporary Ibero-America
EditorsDiana Roig Sanz, Jaume Subirana
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780429299407
ISBN (Print)9780367280505
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • International PEN, organisations

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