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Comp Lit Luncheon Series

The Comparative Literature Luncheon is a weekly informal lunchtime gathering of students, faculty, and other members of the University community.  Each week there is a short (20 minute) presentation, by a visitor or a local speaker, on a topic related to any humanities discipline.

Jonathan Abel ( and Shuang Shen ( are the coordinators for the series this semester. We meet Mondays in 102 Kern at about 12:15 p.m.  You can bring your lunch or buy a lunch tray in Kern Cafeteria (next door) and bring it into 102. Coffee and tea are provided in 102 (no charge).  The speaker will begin at about 12:30 p.m. Allowing a few minutes for discussion, we'll conclude in time for classes that meet at 1:25 p.m.  All students, faculty, colleagues, and friends are welcome.

Click here for information regarding our luncheons from previous semesters.

We're on the air: Recordings of these presentations are broadcast on C-NET, the regional cable network for educational and government programming.   Each program is usually broadcast 4 times in the week following the date listed here. Click here for C-NET archive of broadcast in streaming video.

Or, download the talks at iTunes U.

The 2013-2014 Comparative Literature Luncheon is sponsored in part by a generous contribution from the Center for Global Studies.


Monday, September 15
“‘We Can't Go There With You’: Trauma Rhetoric and its Abuses in Times of Sustained Threat," Rosemary Jolly, Penn State

Comp Lit Luncheon flyer image This talk addresses what trauma theory can and cannot offer in practical contexts of the sustained threats of HIV and gender-based violence. Professor Jolly discusses her field work experiences, embedded as they have been in intergenerational histories of systemic violence underwritten by colonialism, its attendant racisms, and their aftermath. She addresses the interests of those working in the applied fields of trauma and post-traumatic studies, HIV, racism, sexism and heterosexism, child abuse and the intergenerational effects of colonialism and violent conflict.

Monday, September 22
"Dissent and Digital Transumption in an Age of Insecurity," Djelal Kadir, Penn State

Comp Lit Luncheon flyer image This is a diagnostic critique. Unlike a jeremiad, which is a cautionary admonition about what is bound to come, a critique is a diagnosis of what already is. By definition, a diagnosis aims at knowing two things-what is said and what is done-, and examines the discrepancies between the two. This is an essay on the cartography of dissent, which is to say, a critical interrogation of dissent’s possibilities in the present. The analysis probes the historical moment through the institutional discourse of two currently dominant ideologemes--the digital and the transnational. Any coincidence between the narrative of this analysis and your personal or institutional circumstances is purely fortuitous. The NSA has you covered, and your college or university has your back. And, as the agent says, “no need to worry, if you are not doing or saying anything you shouldn’t be.”

Monday, September 29
"Same-Sex Intimacies in an Early Modern African Text about an Ethiopian Female Saint, Gadla Walatta Petros (1672)," Wendy Belcher, Princeton University

Comp Lit lunch flyer image The seventeenth-century Ethiopian book The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Wälättä Petros (Gadla Walatta Petros) features a life-long partnership between two women and the depiction of same-sex sexuality among nuns. The earliest known book-length biography about the life of an African woman, written in 1672 in the Ge'ez language, Gädlä Wällättä Petros is an extraordinary account of early modern African women's lives--full of vivid dialogue, heartbreak, and triumph. It features revered Ethiopian religious leader Wällättä P̣etros (1592-1642), who led a nonviolent movement against European proto-colonialism in Ethiopia in a successful fight to retain African Christian beliefs, for which she was elevated to sainthood in the Ethiopian Orthodox Täwahedo Church. An important part of the text is her friendship with another nun, as they "lived together in mutual love, like soul and body" until death. Interpreting the women's relationships in this Ethiopian text requires care, but queer theory provides useful warnings, framing, and interpretive tools.

Wendy Laura Belcher is associate professor of African literature in Princeton University’s Department of Comparative Literature and Center for African American Studies. She has been studying African literature for over two decades and is now working to bring attention to early African literature through her research and translation. She also studies how African thought has informed a global traffic of invention, recently publishing Abyssinia’s Samuel Johnson: English Thought in the Making of an English Author (Oxford, 2012) and is finalizing the translation of The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros: A Translation of a Seventeenth-Century African Biography of an African Woman with Michael Kleiner, which is perhaps the earliest biography of an African woman.

Monday, October 6
"Solidarity and Sacrifice: Poetry Translation and the Russian Radical Left," Brian Baer, Kent State University

Brian James Baer is Professor of Russian and Translation Studies at Kent State University. He is author of the monograph Other Russias: Homosexuality and the Crisis of Post-Soviet Identity (2009) and editor of the collected volumes Contexts, Subtexts and Pretexts: Literary Translation in Eastern Europe and Russia (2011) and Russian Writers on Translation. An Anthology (2013). He is founding editor of the journal Translation and Interpreting Studies, and his monograph Translation and the Making of Modern Russian Literature is forthcoming in the Bloomsbury series Literatures, Cultures, Translation.

Monday, October 13
“Poetry and the Global Migration of Form,” Jahan Ramazani, University of Virginia

Monday, October 20
“Calcutta-London-Madrid: The Politics of Translation in Global Modernisms,"
Gayle Rogers, University of Pittsburgh

Monday, October 27
"Fieldwork in Theory: Anthropologies of Levantine Intellectuals," Fadi Bardawil, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Monday, November 3
"Affirmations of Blackness: Reading the Black Enlightenment," Surya Parekh, Penn State

Monday, November 10
"Blister you all: The Calibanic Genealogy in Brazil," Pedro Meira Monteiro, Princeton University

Monday, November 17
Title TBA, James O’Sullivan, Penn State

Monday, December 1
Title TBA, John Ochoa, Penn State

Monday, December 8
"On Affect and Articulation: Reading Oe’s Anti-Nuclear Speeches," Margherita Long, University of California, Riverside


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