LITPRAX putting into praxis: the project “Literature in praxis: professional challenges of reading, translation, and publishing in the Digital Age” from the perspective of a participant
On March 25, after three days in Novi Sad (Serbia), I returned home reflecting on how the terms literature, and practice can interact in the same context. Are literature and practice something that only concerns writers? Are they the only ones who put literature into practice? And a reader, is he/she doing the literary praxis? If we are to generalize, either because of the broad concept that literature represents or because of how laborious it is to put anything into practice, these two nouns rarely appear together. The same etymology reveals that practice (or its romanized form praxis) is a process by which theory is realized. How, then, to apply literary theory to praxis? Below, I write about the first attempt to merge these two concepts in Novi Sad in the framework of the LITPRAX project or “Literature in Praxis: Professional Challenges of Reading, Translating and Publishing in the Digital Age”.
Starting with the title of the international project LITPRAX, experts ingeniously intend to merge literature with its historical tradition, academic knowledge, and research, experience in publishing, reading promotion, and digitization. In the first international meeting (the first of the three to be held) this past March 2023 in Novi Sad the coordinators of the University of Ljubljana, the University of West Timisoara, the University of Novi Sad, the publishing house Malinc from Slovenia and the Higher Council for Scientific Research from Spain, together with the Red de Hispanistas de Europa Central created heterogeneous ways and methods of teaching and learning literature. How? Facing the greatest challenge of our time: the lack of reading and low digital literacy when it comes to putting literature into practice. This time, the protagonist of the dynamic collaboration between five institutions was the short story, which will soon be followed by the world of poetry in Romania, and the art of theatre in Slovenia. The students had the opportunity to replace a traditional class with an experience that shed light on how versatile literature can be in practice.
From March 21 to 23, 2023 in Novi Sad, researchers and professors have shown abundant interest in our opinion on reading, writing, book editing, and translation. By ‘our opinion’ I mean that of more than 50 students and participants from more than 10 countries that we have attended both in person and online. From the contributions of the public, it was possible to perceive that there is a disorientation among the readers that is adhered to the need for professional support from their research professors. The disorientation is due to the demands of modern society which, with its formal institutions, bureaucracies, and complex legal systems, hinders both the professional development of the individual and the shift to digital education. To this, LITPRAX responds with a renewed digital literacy that allows us to fulfill our aspirations as readers and provides us with a set of linguistic tools to satisfy these demands of contemporary society. In the workshops, at all times the fundamental objectives of the LITPRAX project have been reflected. Firstly, addressing the digital transformation with special attention to the promotion of interconnected systems of higher education. Secondly, to stimulate innovative practices and increase the capacity of institutions to manage an effective transition to digital education. Thirdly, developing student-centred curricula to better meet their learning needs and reduce qualification mismatches, while staying relevant to the labour market and society at large. These objectives have been achieved with a program of diverse activities. There is no doubt that I could write a book covering the 72 hours of participating in LITPRAX. However, the book would turn out to be only a humble attempt to capture the knowledge I have gained and the friendships I have made.
After the inauguration of the event on Tuesday, March 21 at 9:30 we have focused on the different roles of agents in literary production, distribution, and reception. It made us aware that a literary text cannot begin to exist without an editor, proof-reader, or translator. Generally, we only think of the writer and overlook the professional team doing everything necessary to get said text published. In addition, during the lectures, we outlined important questions in the lives of readers such as “Why do we read certain works and not others? Who chooses those who are considered at a certain moment in history as the most outstanding and valuable authors?” Thus, for the first time, I reflected on canonical works whose selection, to a certain degree, depends on personal taste. Likewise, in the workshops we addressed what is perhaps the most popular of contemporary genres, crime fiction. Even more fascinating was the debate on its subcategory, autofiction or fiction without fiction in which there is no lack of doubt, conjecture, and suspicion.
Another of the major axes of the project was the vast field of translation. This infinite topic would deserve another book, apart from the one I mentioned before. Infinite because literary translation, be it prose, poetry, or drama, requires constant development of translation skills. During the workshop, the students tried to define translation by stating that it is an art. “Translation is a skill,” said another voice from the audience. “It’s true, although translation is also a profession,” added the third. The most valuable part of the workshop was listening to the input of translation specialists themselves, who, based on their personal and professional experience, reflected on the importance of translation and their role as translation specialists in our times, often ruthless towards this art, skill, and profession. Although in a rather superficial way, the students have also been able to verify it, since we worked in groups on a translation of the story Biarritz by Rodrigo Blanco Calderón. If I told you that at one point during the laborious group translation, we looked at each other and said “Hey, we look like a translation workshop in the court of Alfonso X ‘El Sabio'”, I would be telling the truth. And we loved the analogy.
In short, the first LITPRAX transnational meeting that dealt with challenges of production, distribution, and reception in literature was fruitful in several ways. The first and main one, in my opinion, is that it has managed to put Spanish and Latin American literary theory into practice and approach it from a modern and digital perspective. In addition, for the students, it was very relevant to examine the Slovenian, Serbian, Romanian, and, to a certain extent, Ibero-American publishing market since some of us are about to start our careers. Building our knowledge gradually on three different occasions, in addition to being surrounded by experts, is the best way to combat this pessimistic thought that exists about reading in the future.
Jesika Kustec-Graduated in Teaching Spanish and English as Foreign Languages at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ljubljana. She has participated as a speaker at international conferences in Spain and Slovenia and international projects in Hungary, Serbia, and Slovenia. In 2021 she participated in the translation of the book of short stories into Slovenian by the Paraguayan author Delfina Acosta which was published by the Malinc publishing house in Slovenia under the title Paragvajske pravljice.