Textual Heritage for the 21st Century 
Exploring the Potential of a New Analytic Category – international symposium 22-24/03/2021


Heritage is spreading as a contagious academic category. Food heritage, heritage railways, smell heritage... the popularity of the word suggests that a new paradigm is quickly taking root across the Humanities and Social Sciences. At the same time, surprisingly, manuscripts, books, and other textual products have been notably absent from the interdisciplinary debate over intangible cultural heritage (ICH), despite their substantial cultural capital.
This international symposium aims to explore the meanings and potentialities of textual heritage as a new analytic category through which we can challenge the split between tangible and intangible heritage. Given the increasingly connected and digitalized nature of research in the 21st century, we believe this debate is both timely and necessary.

With this symposium, we wish to strengthen a dialogue between the Humanities and the Social Sciences through the interdisciplinary area of “heritage studies”. Bringing together both present-oriented approaches to texts and societies and disciplines that explore history and memory, our aim is to emphasize the role of modern and premodern texts in shaping cultural identities. We expand current notions of textuality, stretching the limits of what a text can be and do.
Therefore, we adopt a broad approach to texts and their materiality, welcoming contributions that deal with all kinds of documents resulting from a technology of inscription. Such an inclusive conception of “text” encompasses manuscripts, epigraphs, musical notations, architectural plans and maps, both in analog and digital formats. We welcome theoretical contributions and case studies that engage with the concept of textual heritage, exploring how “texts” are produced, used and re-created in order to make sense of the relation between past and present.

Main topics

  • Processes of canonization and heritagization
  • Hegemonic mechanisms of world literature and authorized heritage discourses
  • The “UNESCO Memory of the World” and the problem of authenticity
  • Heritage and materiality
  • Non-European systems of musical notation
  • Musical reconstructions
  • The ownership, authorship, and copyright of textual products
  • Any other aspect related to written texts and their heritagization


  • Classics and canons
  • Cultural heritage
  • Digital-analog
  • Documentary heritage
  • Inscription devices
  • Memory and forgetting
  • Tangible-intangible
  • Text and textuality
  • World and globalization

Keynote speakers

Wiebke Denecke is currently Visiting Professor of East Asian Literatures & Comparative Literature at MIT. She held appointments at Barnard College/Columbia University and at Boston University prior to coming to MIT.

Her research encompasses the literary and intellectual history of premodern China, Japan and Korea, comparative studies of East Asia and the premodern world, world literature, and the politics of cultural heritage and memory.

She is the author of The Dynamics of Masters Literature: Early Chinese Thought from Confucius to Han Feizi (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2010), Classical World Literatures: Sino-Japanese and Greco-Roman Comparisons (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), and co-editor of The Norton Anthology of World Literature (2012, 2018), The Oxford Handbook of Classical Chinese Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017) and a three-volume literary history of Japan from an East Asian perspective (Nihon “bun”gakushi. A New History of Japanese “Letterature”) (2015-2019). She is the general editor of The Hsu-Tang Library of Classical Chinese Literature (Oxford University Press) and, with Satoru Hashimoto and Zhang Longxi, she curates the book series East Asian Comparative Literature and Culture (Brill publishers).

Denecke is currently working on projects exploring the relation of early Japanese literary culture to China and Korea, developing methodologies for the emerging field of comparative studies of East Asia’s Sinographic Sphere and creating visions for the global transformation of the humanities.

David C. Harvey is an associate professor in critical heritage studies at Aarhus University, Denmark, and an honorary professor of historical and cultural geography at the University of Exeter (United Kingdom).

His work has focussed on the geographies of heritage, and he has contributed to some key heritage debates, including processual understandings of heritage, extending the temporal depth of heritage, the outlining of heritage-landscape and heritage-climate change relations and the opening up of hidden memories through oral history.

His recent works include The Future of Heritage as Climates Change: Loss, Adaptation and Creativity (edited with Jim Perry, 2015), Commemorative Spaces of the First World War: Historical Geography at the Centenary (edited with James Wallis, 2018) and Creating Heritage: Unrecognised Pasts and Rejected Futures edited with Tom Carter, Roy Jones and Iain Robertson).

He is on the Editorial Boards of five journals, including The International Journal of Heritage Studies, and co-edits a Berghahn Book Series Exploration in Heritage Studies (with Ali Mozaffari).


In collaboration with

Department of Humanities (Ca’ Foscari University); Venice Centre for Digital & Public Humanities (Ca’ Foscari University); Research Institute for Digital and Cultural Heritage (Ca’ Foscari University); Global Japanese Studies - Top Global University Project - MEXT; Research Institute of Japanese Classical Books, Comprehensive Research Organizaton (Waseda University).

Ca' Foscari University of Venice, Department of Humanities
Venice Centre for Digital and Public Humanities (VeDPH)
Research Institute for Digital and Cultural Heritage
Top Global University Japan
Waseda University Comprehensive Research Organization