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Fédération Internationale des Langues et Littératures Modernes
International Federation for Modern Languages and Literatures
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From the President



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A Message from the President

Dear Colleague,

Welcome to the FILLM webpage! I hope that, whether you think of yourself mainly as an individual scholar, or whether you also have a strong sense of belonging to larger groupings of scholars with common traditions and aspirations, you will find that the FILLM has something worthwhile to offer.

The FILLM is the only scholarly organization which in principle covers both the languages and the literatures of the entire world, and which represents world-wide scholarship in this field as well. Over the years, it has lived up to the responsibilities of this unique status by arranging seminars, symposia, congresses and publications which have been truly international in scope, and which have taken up linguistic and literary topics of widely varying kinds, including topics which have been interdisciplinary between the study of language and the study of literature.

When I myself was first appointed to the FILLM Committee at the Novi Sad Congress in 1990, there was a general feeling that the FILLM needed to adapt itself to changing conditions. In earlier times, FILLM Congresses had been attended by scholars whose horizons were very broad and who, when they came together, exchanged ideas on an extremely wide range of topics. By 1990, linguistic and literary scholarship had become much more professionalized and specialized, and young scholars could no longer get funding to attend scholarly meetings with such a strongly generalist orientation. Under these circumstances, the Committee Meeting in Novi Sad decided that the next conference would combine the FILLM’s traditional breadth of scope with a somewhat more specialized focus. For the first time, the 1993 Congress was to have a Conference Theme, which would be divided into a number of Sub-themes.

This change bore immediate fruits. The 1993 Congress in Brasilia was attended by close on a thousand scholars from all over the world. It also resulted in three volumes of proceedings which remain a lasting landmark for that time’s most important trends in linguistic and literary scholarship.

All subsequent FILLM Congresses have used the same Brasilia blueprint, and although none of them has surpassed the Brasilia Congress in terms of numbers, they have all given rise to excellent scholarly interchanges. Scholars of all ages and from widely different backgrounds have clearly relished the opportunity to place their own specialist interests within the kind of larger perspectives offered by the Conference Themes and Sub-Themes, and to discuss them with colleagues from all over the world.

Even so, by the time of the run-up to the 2011 Congress in Halden a new sense of crisis had arisen, and for two main reasons. On the one hand, scholarship had become more highly professionalized and specialized than ever. In the English-speaking world, for instance, most academic publishers now regarded literary research which covered several different periods of literary history as unscholarly, and even research on just one period was sometimes frowned upon if it dealt with more than one author. Young scholars had to take on topics which were narrower and narrower, and they ended up finding their spiritual home in scholarly organizations for every imaginable specialism. On the other hand, it had suddenly become much more difficult for scholars to get funding for their participation in international scholarly gatherings of any kind at all. All over the world, the financing of teaching and research in languages and literatures was being positively cut back, with deleterious consequences for several of the FILLM’s Member Associations.

As I write these words in early 2013, the situation still looks bleak. But the FILLM is doing its utmost to work for a better future, sometimes by making a virtue of necessity. The Committee is now more convinced than ever that there needs to be an international generalist forum where scholars from many different disciplinary and geographical backgrounds can gather to compare notes, so as to guard against the dangers of narrow provincialism and de-humanizing overspecialization. In order to realize this ideal under the current circumstances, the Committee has set itself four strategic goals:
  1. The FILLM will continue to organize its traditional Congresses. But as a way of putting scholars in touch with each other, it will also take full advantage of the revolution in communications-technology. Hence the setting-up of the new post of Communications Officer. Hence, too, this re-vamped website, and the web-journal.
  2. The FILLM will recruit new Member Associations from the rich flood of organizations for specialized subject areas, so enabling synergies between specialization and broader general concerns (see Membership).
  3. On a much larger scale than hitherto, the FILLM will commission publications, and in particular publications in which detailed specialist insights and broad generalist perspectives are brought into inter-relationship (see Forthcoming Publications). 
  4. On the strength of its unique status and its active concern to promote meta-scholarly self-scrutiny, the FILLM will act as a channel for information about threatened reductions and cuts in programmes for research and education in languages and literatures, and actively lobby the appropriate authorities in any give case to which it is alerted.
Now that you have found your way to the FILLM webpage, I very much hope that you, and any scholarly association/s to which you belong, will go on to participate in our organization’s important work.

With all good wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Roger D. Sell
President of the FILLM, 2011 – 2014.

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