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Past Events

A collection of Comparative Literature's past events.

"The Rise of the Surface: Cartography, Poetics, and Visual Art across the Early Modern World (France, Germany, Poland)", Katharina Piechocki, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature, Harvard University

Katharina N. Piechocki is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature at Harvard University. She holds a PhD. in Comparative Literature from New York University (2013) for a thesis on “Cartographic Humanism” and a doctorate in Romance Languages from Vienna University (2009) on the origin of the opera libretto. In 2015-16, Katharina was a Distinguished Junior External Fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center, where she was completing her first book manuscript, “Cartographic Humanism: Defining Early Modern Europe, 1480-1580.” In spring 2017, she will be a scholar in residence at the IFK (Internationales Forschungsinstitut für Kulturwissenschaften) in Vienna, Austria. At Harvard, Katharina is the co-chair (together with Tom Conley) of the Cartography Seminar at the Mahindra Humanities Center.
When Oct 24, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern
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Title TBA, Katharina Piechocki, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature, Harvard University

When Oct 24, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern
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Title TBA, Katharina Piechocki, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature, Harvard University

When Oct 24, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern
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CGS Arabic Film Series

When Oct 20, 2016
from 07:00 PM to 09:00 PM
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Le Destin (1997)

“Proletarian Intimacies: The North Korean Art and Literature of War” Theodore Hughes, Korea Foundation Associate Professor of Korean Studies in the Humanities, Columbia University

Theodore Hughes is Korea Foundation Associate Professor of Korean Studies in the Humanities and Director of the Center for Korean Research at Columbia University. He is the author of Literature and Film in Cold War South Korea: Freedom’s Frontier (Columbia University Press, 2012), which was awarded the Association for Asian Studies James B. Palais Book Prize. He is the co-editor of Intermedial Aesthetics: Korean Literature, Film, and Art (special issue of the Journal of Korean Studies, 2015); the co-editor of Rat Fire: Korean Stories from the Japanese Empire (Cornell East Asia Series, 2013); and the translator of Panmunjom and Other Stories by Lee Ho-Chul (Norwalk: EastBridge, 2005).
When Oct 17, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern
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"English Lyric Poetry, Medieval to Early Modern", Seth Lerer, Distinguished Professor of Literature, University of California at San Diego

Seth Lerer (born 1955) is Distinguished Professor of Literature at the University of California at San Diego, where he served as Dean of Arts and Humanities from 2009 to 2014. He had previously held the Avalon Foundation Professorship in Humanities at Stanford University. Lerer specializes in historical analyses of the English language, in addition to critical analyses of the works of Medieval and Renaissance authors, particularly Geoffrey Chaucer. He is the author of eight scholarly books, most recently Prospero's Son: Life, Books, Love, and Theater (University of Chicago Press, 2013). Lerer won the 2010 Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism and the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism for Children’s Literature: A Readers’ History from Aesop to Harry Potter. He is currently the M. H. Abrams Distinguished Visiting Professor in English at Cornell University.
When Oct 10, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern
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"This Moment of Manumission: Representing Exceptional Blackness in Claudia Rankine's Citizen and Marvel Comics' Captain America", Jonathan Gray, Associate Professor of English, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Jonathan W. Gray is Associate Professor of English at John Jay College-CUNY. He is the editor of the Journal of Comics and Culture and the author of Civil Rights in the White Literary Imagination (University Press of Mississippi, 2013). Gray is currently working on the book project Illustrating the Race: Representing Blackness in American Comics, which traces depictions of African Americans in comics from 1966 to the present, for Columbia University Press. He has published academic articles on Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance, Kyle Baker’s graphic novel Nat Turner, Jay Z’s relationship to Black masculinity, and Trayvon Martin in popular culture. His journalism on comics and popular culture has appeared at EW.com, Salon.com, and The New Inquiry.
When Oct 03, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern
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Graduate Research Roundtable

When Sep 26, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern
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CGS Arabic Film Series

When Sep 22, 2016
from 07:00 PM to 09:00 PM
Where Foster Auditorium
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Theeb (2014)

"Privately Empowered: African-Islamic Feminism in Northern Nigerian Fiction," Shirin Edwin, Sam Houston State University

When Apr 25, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract: My talk is based on my forthcoming book entitled Privately Empowered: Expressing Feminism in Islam in Northern Nigerian Fiction (Northwestern University Press, 2016). It responds to the lack of adequate attention Islam in Africa receives in comparison to Islam in the Middle East and the Arab world. I attribute this neglect to the tight embrace between Islam and politics that has rendered Islamic feminist discourse historically and thematically contextualized in regions where Islamic feminism evolves in concert with the nation-state, and many struggles for legal reforms, activism or social affiliations. In Africa itself, Islam bears the burden of being a “foreign” presence that is considered inimical to African Muslim women’s success. Bridging the blind spots in both African and Islamic feminist theories, I forward the term, African-Islamic feminism, to compel attention to African Muslim women’s private engagement with Islam in potent depictions by three relatively unknown Nigerian novelists, Zaynab Alkali, Hauwa Ali and Abubakar Gimba, due to the texts’ emphases on Muslim women’s personal and private engagements with Islamic ritual and prayer in the quotidian. Such rituals as prayer and the observance of Qur’anic injunctions—Islamic monotheism (shahādah), prayer (ṣalāt and dua), Islamic virtue (akhlāq), among others—privately inculcated for personal fulfillment, regionally and thematically validate those underexplored forms of Islamic feminism whose objectives fall outside the purview of public activity, commonly manifested in activism or in affiliations to organizations.  I conclude that the spiritual universe of African Muslim women may be one where Islam is not the source of their problems or their legislative and political activity, but a spiritual activity that can exist devoid of activist or political forms.

Bio: Shirin Edwin is an associate professor of French in the Department of Foreign Languages at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. Her work focuses on Islam in African literatures.

"Neo-Confucian Ethics and Spirit of World Order: A Comparative Study of Tolerance ," Ming Dong Gu, University of Texas, Dallas

When Apr 18, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract: Faced with world-wide crises today, the value system based on liberalism has proven to be inadequate on a global scale. There has appeared an urgent need to approach the global predicaments from the perspective of common ethics. In 1993, the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions issued a Declaration: “Toward a Global Ethic,” signed by more than 200 leaders from over 40 different faith traditions and spiritual communities. It unequivocally declares: “No new global order without a new global ethic!” This truism lead us to ask: in the construction of a new world order, what moral principle or categorical imperative in Kantian terms can we find in ethical systems of the world which may serve as the spirit of a new world order? This article argues that the Confucian way of tolerance is perhaps a suitable choice because tolerance is now acknowledged as one of the spiritual achievements of modern times and may hold the ethical key to regulating human differences and resolving conflicts involving class, race, religion, nation and culture.  The idea of tolerance is found in all cultural and spiritual traditions, but it is in Confucianism that it was elevated to a moral virtue, a way of life, an ethical theory, and to the exalted status of Tao (恕道) two millennia ago and has remained so since. This article will compare the ideas of tolerance in various traditions, examine the extent to which the Confucian way of tolerance transcends the limitations of regional religions and spiritual faiths, and explore how it may be modernized into the cornerstone of a universal ethics underlying the inner spirit of a new world order.

"On Anxiety: Striving, Failing, Muddling Along," Mari Ruti, University of Toronto

When Apr 11, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract: This presentation combines insights from Lacan’s 1961-1962 seminar on anxiety with recent (feminist, queer, and affect theoretical) accounts of neoliberalism to analyze the contemporary Western phenomenon of pervasive anxiety. In his commentary on anxiety, Lacan repeatedly (and humorously) refers to the straight male subject’s sexual anxiety in the face of his female partner’s seemingly infinite capacity for jouissance: the fact that the phallus always falls short of the phallocentric ideal, faltering at the very moment of delivery. Keeping in mind that for Lacan the phallus is ultimately a signifier without a real-life referent––so that women can also aspire to phallic mastery––Lacan’s depiction of “premature detumenescence” seems like an apt metaphor for the predicament of the neoliberal subject whose hunger for self-actualization, accomplishment, and satisfaction (the good life) tends to exceed its capacities, with the result that anxiety is, for many, the status quo of everyday life in today’s society. What are the cultural forces that produce this predicament? Why is it so difficult to get out of? Are there any antidotes to it? And might anxiety even have something to offer even as it derails our quest for a balanced life?

Bio: Mari Ruti is professor of critical theory at the University of Toronto. She is the author of ten books, most recently Between Levinas and Lacan: Self, Other, Ethics (Bloomsbury Press, 2015) and The Ethics of Opting Out: Defiance and Affect in Queer Theory (Columbia University Press, forthcoming 2016).

"Forms of Unevenness: Latin America and the Novel 'New World Time'," Emilio Sauri, University of Massachusetts, Boston

When Apr 04, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract: This talk attempts to understand what “the contemporary” has meant to the novel, and in turn should mean, for comparative studies of the novel. I take the contemporary Latin American novel as a test case, and argue for reading it in relation recent transformations in the political configuration of the world-system. No doubt the novel in Latin America has long exhibited an acute awareness of the manner in which relations within what Pascale Casanova calls “world literary space” reflect and often contest unevenly developed relations within that system. Yet, Casanova’s study extends only to a period in which the emergence of peripheral literatures had not only been marked by this awareness, but also tasked with addressing and even compensating for such unevenness. This is the period, in other words, when the accumulation of literary capital approximated the ideology of modernization—a desire for a form of modernity spurred on and, at the same time, circumscribed by the unevenly developed flows of global capital.

What happens to the novel, then, when the conditions of possibility for social and economic modernization within the formerly developing world have been radically altered—if not altogether eliminated—by a deepening crisis in the world economic system? This is an historical shift, which, beginning in the 1970s, would eventually give rise to what the Brazilian philosopher Paulo Arantes describes as “o novo tempo do mundo,” or “new world time,” in which “the very modern notion of progress—and the temporality of history that made it thinkable” is neutralized. I hold that in reading recent works by authors like César Aira, Pola Oloixarac, Nicolás Cabral, and Roberto Bolaño, we can see that how this “novo tempo do mundo” has altered the Latin American novel’s sense of the present to reflect something like a development without developmentalism on the level of narrative. Viewed from this perspective, the question of the contemporary not only calls for a modification of comparative approaches to the study of the novel—as exemplified by Casanova, as well as critics like Fredric Jameson, Roberto Schwarz, and Franco Moretti—but also raises new questions about the political horizon of literature today.

Bio: Emilio Sauri is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Boston. His research focuses on twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature and visual art from the U.S. and Latin America, and reads these in relation to the development of the world-system. He has co-edited a collection of essays titled Literary Materialisms (Palgrave, 2013) with Mathias Nilges, along with a special issue of nonsite with Eugenio Di Stefano, and his work has appeared in MLN, Studies in American Fiction, and Twentieth-Century Literature. He is currently at work on a book project on literature and the ends of autonomy in the Americas.

"The Dulles Plan for Russia: Soviet Literature, Conspiracy Theories, and the Anthropology of Morality," Alexander Panchenko, Russian Academy of Sciences

When Mar 28, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract: Conspiracy theories are a powerful explanatory model, or way of thinking, that
influences many cultural forms and social processes throughout the contemporary
world. Generally defined as “the conviction that a secret, omnipotent individual or
group covertly controls the political and social order or some part thereof,”
conspiracy theories include a number of principal ideas and concepts that make
them adaptable to broad variety of discourses and forms of collective imagination.
Proceeding from the necessity to explain and localize evil as a social and moral
category, conspiracy theories produce ethical models that oppose ‘us’ to ‘them’,
‘victims’ to ‘enemies’, ‘heroes’ to ‘anti-heroes’. At the same time, conspiracy theories
are extremely teleological; they do not leave any room for coincidences and
accidents and explain all facts and events as related to intentional and purposeful
activities of ‘evil actors.’ Quite often, conspiracy theories are grounded in holistic
worldviews that lead, in turn, to particular hermeneutic styles. Reality is always
considered to be deceptive; ‘simple’, ‘superficial’, and ‘obvious.’ Explanations must
give place to more complicated intellectual procedures aimed at a disclosure of
‘concealed truth’. From this perspective, the concept of mystery appears to be the
most powerful element of conspiratorial narratives. Conspiracy theories often
motivate political action and social praxis, accompany transformation of institutional
and informational networks, provoke moral panics, and changes of identities.
This talk will focus on continuity of Soviet conspiratorial ideas and narratives in post-Soviet
Russia. What ‘performative shifts’ of late Soviet discourse were adopted and transformed by
‘communities of loss’ in the 1990s and 2000s? Why did conservative nationalism of the
1970s become so significant for Russian popular culture forty years later? What messages
are encoded by the symbolic language of moral panics and conspiracy theories related to the
‘imaginary West’ in the late Soviet and post-Soviet Russian society? These questions can be
at least partly answered by an analysis of the so called Dulles Plan for Russia, a
conspiratorial forgery based on borrowings from the novel Vechnyi Zov (the Eternal
Call, 1971–76) by the Soviet writer Anatoliy Ivanov. The talk deals with its history,
ideological contexts and popular reception in present day Russia.

Bio: Alexander A. Panchenko is Director of the Research Center for Literary Theory and Interdisciplinary Studies at the Institute of Russian Literature, Russian Academy of Sciences (St. Petersburg, Russia), a Professor of Social Anthropology at St. Petersburg State University (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences), and the Director of the Center for Anthropology of Religion at the European University at St. Petersburg.  His research interests include religious folklore and vernacular religion in Russia and Europe, theory and history of folklore research, contemporary folklore and popular culture, and anthropological approaches to the study of Russian literature.  He has published more than 100 research works (including two books) in Russian and other European languages on vernacular religion in rural Russia; religious movements in modern Russia; the political use of folklore in the Soviet Union, and comparative studies in folklore and the anthropology of religion.

"So Say We All: The Fiction of World Science Fiction," Arielle Saiber, Bowdoin College

When Mar 21, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract: Environmental change and disaster.  The evolution and fate of the human race.  Understanding the Other (gender, race, sexuality, class, belief, the alien).  The ethics of technoscience.  The possibility of space and/or time travel.  Issues of extra-Terran colonization and colonialism.  Future world wars.  Dystopias and utopias.  What/where is reality?  What if X had happened, instead of Y?  In many of its questions and critiques the genre of science fiction (SF) is, per force, global.  Depending how you define SF and proto-SF, one can find beginning points with H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Mary Shelley, and even Dante and Lucian.  As a designated literary genre, however, SF began in the US in the 1920s; and it was the US, followed quickly by England, and predominantly by white men in both countries, whose perspective quickly came to dominate the field.  Elsewhere in the world, genre SF (literature, film, etc.) evolved at various moments from the mid-twentieth century on, at times in imitation of Anglophone SF, at times in conversation with it, and at times with a concerted effort to build a narrative set in and reflective of an author’s culture.  Dr. Saiber's talk will address this tension between the apparently “global” nature of SF and the inevitably “local” characteristics implicit within its production.  She will give an overview of the current state of “World Science Fiction” and then focus on one country’s production—a country few would ever associate with SF, and yet one with a significant output since the 1950s, and with notable local peculiarities: Italy."

Bio: Arielle Saber is Associate Professor of Italian, Bowdoin College (Ph.D., Italian Literature, Yale, 1999). She has published articles on medieval and early modern Italian literature; early modern mathematics, print history, and advice manuals; literature & science studies; genre theory and experimental electronic music; and Dante in contemporary culture. Her book Giordano Bruno and the Geometry of Language came out in 2005 (Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate Press), and her co-edited anthology Images of Quattrocento Florence: Writings on Literature, History and Art in 2000 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000).  She has also co-edited special issues of Configurations (“Mathematics and the Imagination”), Dante Studies, and California Italian Studies.

"Unnatural Narratives in Contemporary Chinese Time Travel Fiction," Biwu Shang, Shanghai Jiaotong University

When Mar 14, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract: The first decade of the twenty-first century witnessed an upsurge and a flourishing of time travel fiction in China, which is physically, logically, and/or humanly impossible. The boom of this new narrative genre has been fueled in no small part by the so-called “postmodernist turn” coupled with the “historiographical turn”, to the degree that it is no longer possible to read it along the lines of traditional narrative theory. With contemporary Chinese time travel fiction as its central concern, this article pursues four major goals: 1) to uncover its dominant unnatural patterns and means of time travel, 2) to reveal its unnaturalness from such perspectives as metalepsis, prolepsis, self-contradictory narration, and multiperson narration, 3) to examine its consequences and values of being unnatural, and 4) to offer a way of naturalizing it by suggesting the intersection of unnatural narratology with ethical narratology.

Bio: Biwu Shang is a Distinguished Research Fellow of English at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, editor of Frontiers of Narrative Studies. His areas of research include narrative theory, ethical literary criticism, and contemporary Anglo-American fiction. He is the author of two critical monographs (In Pursuit of Narrative Dynamics, 2011; Contemporary Western Narratology: Postclassical Perspectives, 2013). His writings were published or are forthcoming in such journals as Style, Journal of Literary Semantics, CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, Semiotica, Neohelicon, Primerjalna Književnost, and arcadia: International Journal of Literary Studies.