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Comp Lit Luncheon Archive

"Free Indirect, or Who is the Subject of the Work of Fiction?" Timothy Bewes, Brown University

When Nov 02, 2015
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract: For Michel Foucault the subject, subjectivation, is one of the ways in which the event of discourse is regulated and controlled by means of limitations and exclusions – regulated not from outside it but as a procedure internal to discourse. It is in the service of a liberation from those limitations that Foucault urges us to discover, beneath the manifest themes of expression, of plenitude, a principle of “discontinuity.” Discourses, he says in “The Order of Discourse,” “must be treated as discontinuous practices, which cross each other, are sometimes juxtaposed with one another, but can just as well exclude or be unaware of each other.”  In the spirit of Foucault’s inquiry, I will take up the question of the subject of the work of fiction. Through a comparison of two recent uses of free indirect discourse, I will attempt to locate the question of the subject of the work of fiction at the site of the “caesurae” that, says Foucault, “break up the instant and disperse the subject into a plurality of possible positions and functions.”

"Remaking Machines: Pragmatics and Politics of Photography," Gabriel Rockhill, Villanova University

When Oct 26, 2015
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract: “The only sensible weapon against the cops,” Chris Marker presciently claimed in the 1960s, is “a film camera.” Exploring the ramifications of this statement in the context of the current struggles around the racial violence perpetrated by the police and vigilantes, this paper proposes a broad reflection on the social pragmatics of photography and its consequences. It begins by revisiting the question ‘what is photography?’ by inquiring into its supposed privileged relationship to the objective world. It argues that photography, far from simply capturing reality, is a powerful remaking machine that recomposes the very nature of the real. By resituating the photographic apparatus in a broad social pragmatics, it thereby seeks to elucidate its political power as a “sensible weapon.”

Bio: Gabriel Rockhill is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University and the Director of the Atelier de Théorie Critique in Paris. He is the author, most notably, of Interventions in Contemporary Thought: History, Politics, Aesthetics (forthcoming), Radical History & the Politics of Art (2014) and Logique de l’histoire (2010).

“Redesigning Shakespeare with Digital Media: New Technologies in Experimental Performance and The Wooster Group's Hamlet,” Serap Erincin, Penn State

When Oct 19, 2015
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract: The Wooster Group incorporated digital media and new technologies as part of their method of rehearsing and performing in a number of productions based on classics, including Hamlet (2007). Hamlet involves repetition of their own scores, which are already reenactments/recreations of scores of actors’ live performances in Richard Burton’s Hamlet captured on film. In this talk, I also discuss how the use of digital media in live performance offers us a way to simultaneously explore the fragmented layers of Shakespeare’s text in multiple mediums.

Bio: Serap Erincin is a performance artist, director and writer who has lived and worked in Istanbul, London, New York, and Florida. She earned her Ph.D. in Performance Studies from NYU and is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Penn State. She is the winner of various awards and fellowships and has published on performance and politics, especially with regard to human rights violations, as well as experimental dance and theatre. She is also the editor of Solum and Other Plays from Turkey and the writer and director of plays such as Inside “Out”, Connected, and Atrocity Boulevard

"Helpless against the tides: The Spirit of the Times in Doris Lessing’s Autobiographies," Maria Olaussen, University of Gothenburg

When Oct 12, 2015
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Doris Lessing’s novels can be considered among the most important sources of feminist inspiration for a generation of women who came to be involved in activist work in the 1960s and 1970s. Her descriptions of independent women dedicated to political work are based on her own experiences in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and London in the 1940s and 1950s, and often express a deep sense of disillusionment and critical distance to political activism. Lessing’s troubled relation to feminism was brought out in her 1987 publication Prisons We Choose to Live Inside, based on the Massey lectures of 1985, where she discusses the power and dangers of religious and political movements. In this presentation I want to read Lessing’s autobiographies, Under My Skin (1994) and Walking in the Shade (1997) against the ideas expressed in the Massey lectures with a particular focus on how Lessing depicts the difficulties of depicting and explaining “the spirit of the times”.

Maria Olaussen is Professor of English at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. She has published on Feminist theory and African literature, especially African women writers. She is the author of Three Types of Feminist Criticism and Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea and Forceful Creation in Harsh Terrain: Place and Identity in Three Novels by Bessie Head as well as the edited collection Africa Writing Europe: Oppositions, Entanglements, Juxtapositions. Her teaching and research interests are in African literature, Gender and Postcolonial Studies. She is currently working on a project entitled Narrating the Animal Subject: Concurrences as Narrative Strategy.

"Beyond the Human: Universalism, Humanism, and the 1930s French Avant-garde," Efthymia Rentzou, Princeton University

When Oct 05, 2015
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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 Abstract: This paper discusses the  surrealist magazine Minotaure (1933-1939) and other productions of the French avant-garde in the 1930s, such as  Georges Bataille’s magazine Acéphale,  as intense critical investigations into the notion of the human and of humanism.The universal human quality explored in these publications is no longer a rational harmonious figure at the center of the world but rather a being at once open to the animal- and object-realms, sharing with them certain modes of perception and qualities previously viewed as pre-human or inhuman. The elaboration of this new human hinges on the transformation of the classical tradition, of “Greece” from a humanistic topos of universality into a new cultural code for “the world.” This leads to a striking new understanding of humanism, one that is no less encompassing than its Renaissance and Enlightenment predecessors, but no longer anthropocentric in the same ways.The new non-anthropocentric humanism that results from these displacements invites humans into a different relationship with the world, but also encodes a specific political position during the 1930s, one that stand against the totalitarian regimes and their regulation of what stands as "human." Against this background, what these avant-garde publications propose is an alternative universalism as a critic of Western thought, articulated on an intense experimentation with the human figure.

Bio: Effie Rentzou is an Associate Professor of French Literature in the Department of French and Italian at Princeton University. She studies avant-garde and modernist literature and art, and particularly poetics, the relation between image and text, social analysis of literature, politics and literature, and the internationalization of the avant-garde. Her first book, Littérature malgré elle: Le surréalisme et la transformation du littéraire (2010) examines the construction of literary phenomena in the production of an anti-literary movement, surrealism. She is currently working on a second book, tentatively titled Concepts of the World: Avant-garde and the Idea of the International that explores the conceptualization of the “world” in the work and activities of writers and artists within and around historical avant-garde movements – futurism, dada, and surrealism – during the period 1900-1940.  

“Saplings and Crustaceans: Figuring Youth and Age in Spanish Modernist Poetics,” Leslie Harkema, Yale University

When Sep 28, 2015
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract:  A number of critics of literary modernism have called attention to the fact that, with the advent of the twentieth century, a radical shift occurs in Western treatments of the Bildungsroman: the linear narrative of development oriented toward adulthood gives way to an interest in representing the non-linear experience of adolescence. Modernist writers eschew a journey along a single path in favor of a uniquely youthful temporality, marked by simultaneity, latency, and possibility. Just as the adolescent body undergoes physical changes and reaches the height of its vigor and agility, the youthful mind and imagination are represented as supple, impressionable, and potently creative. While perhaps the best known example of modernist adolescence is James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, in Spanish art of the modernist period the resistance to Bildung that appears in this novel and many others emerges distinctively in lyric poetry and the discourse that surrounds its production. In this talk, I will explore this phenomenon by considering two non-human but nonetheless corporal images that recur in Spanish poetry and writings on poetics from the first three decades of the twentieth century (the so-called “Silver Age” in Spanish letters): the post-romantic image of a young tree, and the hard shell of a crustacean, emblem of adult impassivity and rigid critical tradition. Discussing several poems written in Castilian during this period as well as other cultural documents, I argue that these images defy the teleological pull of development by concretizing youth and age as physical and spiritual absolutes.

Bio: Leslie Harkema, Assistant Professor of Spanish at Yale University, received her Ph.D. in Spanish Literature from Boston University.  Her areas of interest include nineteenth- and twentieth-Century Peninsular Literature; modern Hispanic poetry; literary responses to religious, political, and scientific discourse; tropes of youth and age in European modernism; literature of exile; and theory and practice of literary translation.  Professor Harkema’s current book project, Spanish Modernism and the Aesthetics of Youth: From Miguel de Unamuno to “La Joven Literatura”, examines the little-studied relationship between Unamuno and several Spanish writers associated with the so-called Generation of 1927, focusing on youth as a central concept in their aesthetic thought and self-fashioning. The poetic tradition that binds these writers together brings to light the central role that the twentieth century’s reimagining of adolescence and youth played in the development of literary modernism in Spain. Another book-length project, tentatively titled Faithful Betrayals: Translation and the Critique of Literary Culture in Modern Spanish Writing, undertakes to examine Spain’s relationships to its European neighbors in the 19th and 20th centuries—as well as the internal dynamics of interactions between regional nationalisms during this period—through the lens of Spanish writers’ attitudes toward and practices in literary translation.

“The Strength of Weak Links in the Sinophone System,” Jing Tsu, Yale University

When Apr 27, 2015
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern
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In the Chinese-language literary system, writers’ relations to one another are being reshuffled across time and space. Distant parallels are drawn into ever closer proximities, and the implicit comradeship once presumed between fellow exiles outside of mainland China can be repolarized due to this change. In the ocean that is the world literary space, intimacy can be uncomfortable. The compression of the global literary space is opening new doors and backchannels for loosening and tightening the grip of national literary geographies. New internal horizons and platforms are opening up, each eager to become a new site of comparisons—and perhaps to invite or disinvite renewed relations. For the first time—and never so evident—global, regional, national, and local interests are simultaneously in play. Approaching large-scale literary studies from the perspective of local and regional alliances, my talk explicates these dynamics in terms of the weak, and how margins forge their own margins. I highlight Taiwan in a dynamic triangulation with Hong Kong and Macau that is largely unseen on the world stage, and analyze, at the same time, the proliferation of new internal peripheries in Taiwan literature and how it manages such diversity. What would normally be distinguished as local and transregional accounts, then, works in tandem to animate what I have called “literary governance,” a decentralized but generative process in language-literature systems that is mobilized around hard and soft thresholds of language access, where combinations of affective attachments and institutional, or material, power are reproduced to uneven effects.

“Asian American Poetry and the Politics of Form,” Dorothy Wang, Williams College

When Apr 20, 2015
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern
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Poetry studies—and literary studies more generally—have relegated Asian American poetry to tertiary status: as minority writing that lacks the pizazz of “real” minority literature and as poetic work that cannot be countenanced as “real” poetry. Asian American poetry functions as “identity” poetry, a side dish offering at a multicultural literary food court. The long history (over 130 years old) and wide formal spectrum of this body of writing are simply unknown to the great majority of poetry critics. To what extent does this ignorance reflect an unwillingness to think about the racial occlusions at the heart of our study of American poetry? How do insights into critical attitudes towards Asian American poetry—a category that links the most exalted literary genre and the most non-native of American English speakers—yield a glimpse into unexamined assumptions about English-language poetry and about fundamental poetic categories and concepts?

“A Group Interview with Nathaniel Mackey,” Nathaniel Mackey, Duke University

When Apr 13, 2015
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern
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Nathaniel Mackey, winner of the National Book Award for poetry and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for Lifetime Achievement, will discuss his work with a small panel of Penn State scholars. After a brief introduction to Mackey’s work by a Penn State faculty member, the panel will interview Mackey about his “discrepant engagements” as an author, editor, professor, and radio DJ. Following the interview, the panel will open the floor to questions from the audience. This event should be of interest to those seeking an introduction to Mackey’s writing as well as to those already familiar with it. It will also precede Professor Mackey’s second engagement at Penn State: a poetry reading on the evening of Tuesday, April 14, in the Palmer Lipcon Auditorium.

Nathaniel Mackey works in the areas of modern and postmodern literature in the U.S. and the Caribbean, creative writing, poetry and poetics, and the intersection of literature and music. He is the author of several books of poetry, fiction and criticism, most recently Nod House (New Directions, 2011), Bass Cathedral (New Directions, 2008), and Paracritical Hinge: Essays, Talks, Notes, Interviews (University of Wisconsin Press, 2005), respectively. Strick: Song of the Andoumboulou 16-25, a compact disc recording of poems read with musical accompaniment (Royal Hartigan, percussion; Hafez Modirzadeh, reeds and flutes), was released in 1995 by Spoken Engine Company. He is editor of the literary magazine Hambone and coeditor, with Art Lange, of the anthology Moment's Notice: Jazz in Poetry and Prose (Coffee House Press, 1993).

“The World Unspoken: Kleist, Kafka, McCarthy,” Ian Fleishman, University of Pennsylvania

When Apr 06, 2015
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern
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This talk will interrogate the tension between the spoken, or the written, word and the world of the ineffable through three brief and enigmatic visions of horses in the works of Heinrich von Kleist, Franz Kafka and Cormac McCarthy. Exposing and exploding the limits of language and the limits of the human, these three authors long for a world unspoken: not merely an unspoken world or a world unspeakable, but rather an imagined paradise that is urgently and actively unspoken, undone by the very language that would otherwise describe it. It is through this unspeaking, through the casting off of the constraints of language, that Kleist, Kafka and McCarthy attempt an opening unto the noumenal, that the necessity of saying transcends itself and is transformed into an ecstasy of being.

Ian Thomas Fleishman is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pennsylvania. He completed his PhD in French and German Literature at Harvard in 2013. His first book manuscript is titled An Aesthetics of Injury: The Narrative Wound from Baudelaire to Tarantino. He has published in The German Quarterly, French Studies, The Journal of Austrian Studies and elsewhere on subjects ranging from the Baroque to contemporary cinema.

"Fine Illuminations: A visual essay on refinement, finesse, and global Cuba," Jacqueline Loss, University of Connecticut

When Mar 30, 2015
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern
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Fino,” is a term frequently used by Cubans to evoke anything from refined, fine, educated, picky and glamorous, to elegant, delicate, gay, sexually repressed, and even whiter. Jacqueline Loss will consider how Cubans’ perception of this category reveals their racial, class, and gender anxieties, alluded to in the citation above. Building on diverse discussions on aesthetic judgment, Bourdieu’s Distinction and Sianne Ngai’s analysis of the zany, cute, and interesting for late capitalism, Loss seeks to theorize and historicize another category, “lo fino” (that which is fino), through which Cubans delineate their complex relationships toward capitalist and socialist consumption as well as contrasting modes of comportment that have been affected by distinct ideologies and historical encounters.  Wedding artistic practice to cultural studies scholarship, Loss seeks to not only trace the lineage and repercussions of this term for Cubans, but also to show how this aesthetic category is conditioned by place and circumstance. The resulting tapestry composed of interviewees’ words, archival research, and photographs by the internationally acclaimed Cuban photographer, Juan Carlos Alom, begins to tell a story about how a seemingly small, apparently aesthetic category elucidates the intersections among race, gender, and aesthetic theories. 

Jacqueline Loss is a professor of Latin American and Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Connecticut. Her publications include Dreaming in Russian: The Cuban Soviet Imaginary (University of Texas Press, 2013), Cosmopolitanisms and Latin America: Against the Destiny of Place (Palgrave, 2005) and the co-edited volumes, Caviar with Rum: Cuba-USSR and the Post-Soviet Experience (Palgrave, 2012, Ed. with Jose Manuel Prieto) and New Short Fiction from Cuba (Northwestern University Press, 2007, Ed. with Esther Whitfield). She has published numerous articles and translated Cuban authors, including Antonio Álvarez Gil, Armando Suárez Cobián, Ernesto René Rodríguez, Jorge Miralles, Anna Lidia Vega Serova, Antonio Álvarez Gil, and Víctor Fowler Calzada.

“Threshold to the Kingdom: The Airport is a Border and the Border is a Volume,” Matthew Hart, Columbia University

When Mar 23, 2015
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern
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This talk considers the airport as an international border area. Its analysis is based on three linked premises: (1) in airports, legal and political practices of sovereignty, jurisdiction, and control become disaggregated; (2) borders between territories do not represent the edges of Euclidean geopolitical planes but ought, rather, to be considered as a three-dimensional volumes; and (3) the airport exemplifies and dramatizes a broader historical trend in which the space of the border has proliferated and become distended, appearing not merely at the edges of territories but within and throughout. Though its premises are rooted in social scientific research, the talk considers three main examples. First up is the defection scene in the opening chapter of Rudolf Nureyev's autobiography, Nureyev (1963), in which the great Bashkiri dancer stages his “leap to freedom” in a Paris airport. Second and third are two works by the British artist Mark Wallinger: his Turner Prize-winning installation, State Britain (2007), and Threshold to the Kingdom (2000), a video installation from which the talk takes its title and inspiration.

Matthew Hart teaches in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. His book, Nations of Nothing But Poetry, was published by Oxford UP in 2010. He is founding co-editor of the Columbia UP book series, Literature Now, and associate editor of Contemporary Literature. He is currently Past President of ASAP: the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present.

“The Labours of Tovarisch: Ezra Pound’s Slavic Worlds,” Mykola Polyuha, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

When Mar 16, 2015
from 12:15 PM to 01:25 PM
Where 102 Kern
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While Ezra Pound’s biography and works seem to have been thoroughly examined, his heritage contains aspects that remain overlooked. The presence of Eastern European motifs constitutes one of such neglected areas. Although critics occasionally make cursory comments, a detailed elaboration of the topic is non-existent. Typically, Poundian scholars tend to believe that the poet was little concerned with Eastern Europe and his knowledge of the region is by default regarded as insignificant. Pound’s writings, however, testify the opposite. Leonard Doob’s quantitative analysis of Pound’s war speeches, for example, demonstrates that sixty-two percent of Pound’s radio broadcasts contain references to the Soviet Union. Indeed, one can hardly claim that Pound did not know anything at all about Eastern European countries. Many figures whom Pound admired and many friends whose works he often revised either traveled to Eastern Europe, or wrote about the region, or were of Eastern European origin. Eastern European countries were additionally the arenas for the 20th century major historical events (the Bolshevik revolution, both world wars, etc.), i.e., the events that left no one, including Pound, indifferent.

My talk considers Pound’s acquaintance with Eastern European (primarily Russian) cultural and politico-economical realm. By analyzing Pound’s literary heritage, I attempt to determine the broadness and accuracy of his expertise in Russia. In the talk, I will examine both common stereotypes about Eastern Europe that Pound shared with his contemporaries and his own unique views of the region. 

"Mirrored Resonance: Writing English in Chinese Characters," Jonathan Stalling, University of Oklahoma

When Mar 02, 2015
from 12:15 PM to 01:25 PM
Where 102 Kern
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Letters are not the building blocks of words—they merely represent the sounds that are, and Chinese characters can do this just as well, if not better.

Roughly 170 years ago, Chinese merchants in Hong Kong invented a system for writing English speech sounds in Chinese characters (morphosyllabic transliteration) still widely employed today to learn English pronunciation and to transcribe foreign words and proper names into Chinese (see Names of the World's Peoples: a Comprehensive Dictionary of Names in Roman-Chinese (世界人名翻译大辞典).  While this syllabic method of transcription reaches all the way back to writing on oracle bones, its more widespread use to transcribe English has helped consolidate, disseminate, and maintain pervasive phonotactic rules specific to so-called “China-English” (including systematic deletions, substitutions, additions, and stress-time “syllabification”). In fact, one can argue that the fate Chinese characters and the English language are now deeply intertwined as these phonotactic rules now govern the speech behaviors of more English speakers than there are Americans alive.

In this lecture Dr. Jonathan Stalling will explore several permutations of Chinese-English interlangauges as they lead into his Sinophonic English opera (Yingelishi) before turning to a new work he is calling Mirrored Resonance: The SinoEnglish Rime Tables. In this new project, Stalling draws upon Classical Chinese phonetics to imagine a new digraphic foundation for Chinese-English interlanguages structured within the epistemological framework of traditional rime tables. However, at the center of this new work lies a novel algorithm, which has now transcribed over 130,000 English words into “Sinographic English” along with new 3D digital learning environments created to accurately teach English pronunciation through Chinese characters in new ways.

 Jonathan Stalling is an Associate Professor of English specializing in cross-cultural poetics, comparative literature, and translation studies at the University of Oklahoma, where he is the founding editor of Chinese Literature Today magazine and book series and the curator of the Chinese Literature Translation Archive at the University of Oklahoma Library. His books include Poetics of Emptiness (Fordham) (recently published in Chinese as 虚无诗学), Grotto Heaven, Yingelishi(吟歌丽诗), and Lost Wax: Translation through the Void (TinFish early 2015). He is also an editor of The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry: a Critical Edition (Fordham) and the translator of Winter Sun: The Poetry of Shi Zhi (1966-2007) (University of Oklahoma Press).

"Towards an Aesthetics of Stigmata: From Van Gogh's Paintings to Claire Denis's Films," Sabine Doran, Penn State

When Feb 23, 2015
from 12:15 PM to 01:25 PM
Where 102 Kern
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This talk explores an aesthetics of stigmata, as framed by Claire Denis’s recent films, The Intruder and Trouble Every Day, and in dialogue with Van Gogh’s painterly engagement with stigmatic inscriptions at the turn of the century. Van Gogh’s emphasis on the stigmatic role of yellow in his late work, expressed through forms of “kinetic aggressivity,” will be shown to parallel the transgressive nature of Denis’s films, transgressive in both the formal and the affective senses, as thematized, for example, in sacrificial rituals (the Christ-like figure of the son in L’Intrus). At stake in both Van Gogh’s and Denis’s work is an insistence on the corporeal within networks of forces. 

Sabine Doran is Associate Professor in the Department of German and Slavic Languages and Literatures. She is the author of The Culture of Yellow, or, The Visual Politics of Late Modernity (London: Bloomsbury, 2013) and is currently working on a book on synaesthesia.

"The First Hebrew Shakespeare Translations," Lily Kahn, University College London

When Feb 16, 2015
from 12:15 PM to 01:25 PM
Where 102 Kern
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"The Disintegration of Civil War Memory in Brown v. Board Literature," Michael LeMahieu, Clemson University

When Feb 09, 2015
from 12:15 PM to 01:25 PM
Where 102 Kern
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In 1963, as the Civil War centennial commemoration unfolded in the midst of the Civil Rights movement, James Baldwin declared that “the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too soon.” In the decade leading up to Baldwin’s declaration, Flannery O’Connor, Carson McCullers, and Gwendolyn Brooks staged the aesthetic disintegration of Civil War memory even as they represented racial integration in public education. O’Connor’s “A Late Encounter with the Enemy” (1953) and McCullers’s Clock Without Hands (1961) counter the lost cause mythology of Gone with the Wind by irreverently converting Civil War memory from lived experience to cultural narrative. Brooks’s 1960 Emmett Till poems explicitly represent the generic disintegration of Civil War memory as chivalric romance.

Comp Lit Lunch Flyer Feb 9.jpgMichael LeMahieu is Associate Professor of English and Director of the Pearce Center for Professional Communication at Clemson University. He is the author of Fictions of Fact and Value: The Erasure of Logical Positivism in American Literature, 1945-1975 (Oxford, 2013) and co-editor of the journal Contemporary Literature. His articles and reviews have appeared in African American Review, American Studies, Modernism/Modernity, and Twentieth-Century Literature. During the Spring 2015 term, he is Visiting Faculty Fellow at the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale.

 

"Resuming Maurice: Maeterlinck and Literary Celebrity," Philip Mosley, Penn State, Worthington Scranton

When Feb 02, 2015
from 12:15 PM to 01:25 PM
Where 102 Kern
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However one chooses to define a literary celebrity, there is no doubt that Maurice Maeterlinck was one. For much of the first half of the twentieth century, the Nobel prizewinning Belgian was one of the most famous authors in the world, his books translated into many languages and selling in huge numbers. On his first visit to the United States in 1919 people clamored to meet him and hear him speak. Along Fifth Avenue in New York City bunting was hung in his honor. Yet since his death in 1949 his oeuvre--mainly poetry, plays, and essays--has been largely neglected. His translated works with very few exceptions exist only in reprints of those early versions that had poured from the printing presses in the first quarter of the century when he was at the peak of his fame. In a media-saturated age, one in which the line increasingly blurs between being a celebrity for what you have accomplished and being one for who you happen to be, it is unsurprising that celebrity studies has already become a fully-fledged academic discipline. An offshoot of cultural studies, its main interest is in contemporary celebrity, but it has also begun to historicize the phenomenon. As far as it concerns literary celebrity, most work so far suggests that the modern idea begins in the Romantic period, gathers pace through the nineteenth century, and evolves to the point of producing a primary celebrity figure in Maeterlinck by the beginning of the twentieth century. Such an idea of modern literary celebrity involves the post-Rousseau cult of individual subjectivity, and the key factor in separating it from, for instance, the renown of an Enlightenment figure such as Samuel Johnson is the commercialization of literature as a result of industrial production of books and magazines. This revolutionary turn in literary culture brings with it an increase in critics and reviewers, a vast readership (due also in no small measure to the extension of education), and a wide dissemination of corresponding images made possible by the art of photography. By the time of Maeterlinck’s career as an author, we may add to this cumulative process the elaboration of promotion and publicity via motion pictures and radio, and the emergence of modern techniques of advertising, marketing, and public relations.

Comp Lit Lunch Flyer Feb 2.jpgPhilip Mosley is Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the Worthington Scranton campus of the Pennsylvania State University, USA. He is an Associate Editor of Comparative Literature Studies and has served on the board of the Pennsylvania Humanities Council. His book publications include Ingmar Bergman: The Cinema as Mistress (1982); Georges Rodenbach: Critical Essays (1996); Split Screen: Belgian Cinema and Cultural Identity (2001); Anthracite! An Anthology of Pennsylvania Coal Region Plays (2006); The Cinema of the Dardenne Brothers: Responsible Realism (2014). Additionally, he has translated a number of Belgian authors from French to English including Guy Vaes (October Long Sunday, 1997), Georges Rodenbach (Bruges-la-Morte, 2007), Maurice Maeterlinck (The Intelligence of Flowers, 2008), and François Jacqmin (The Book of the Snow, 2010, shortlisted for the international Griffin Poetry Prize). He was awarded the 2008 Literary Translation Prize by the French Community of Belgium in recognition of his contribution to the dissemination of Belgian francophone literature. A native of England who immigrated to the USA in 1988, he holds a BA in English from the University of Leeds, an MA in European Literature and a PhD in Comparative Literature, both from the University of East Anglia. In 2000 he was Visiting Professor at the University of Toulouse, France; in 2003-04 was Fulbright Visiting Professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium; and in 2013 was Visiting Professor at the University College of Sint-Lukas, Brussels, Belgium.

"Plastic: The Desire for a Container," Heather Davis, Penn State

When Jan 26, 2015
from 12:15 PM to 01:25 PM
Where 102 Kern
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From take-out containers to water bottles to hazmat suits, the practically ubiquitous material of plastic seals objects and bodies from their surrounding environment. But it does not do so benignly; it is one of the foremost causes of pollution in the oceans amongst other environmental problems. As an agent of containment and contamination, plastic is bound to new ecological realities, creating new aesthetic surfaces as it coats the earth. This paper will reconsider the world of plastic containers, asking how this material contains life.

Comp Lit Lunch Flyer Jan 26.jpgHeather Davis is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Pennsylvania State University. She is the author of numerous articles and the editor of Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environment and Epistemology (Open Humanities Press, forthcoming 2015) and Desire/Change: Contemporary Canadian Feminist Art (McGill-Queen's Press, forthcoming 2016).

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

When Dec 08, 2014
from 12:15 PM to 01:25 PM
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Students of modern Japanese thought tend to have deep respect for the political activism of Nobel literature laureate Oe Kenzaburo (1935-). As a tireless advocate for the no-war clause in Japan’s post-war constitution, and a convener of the post-Fukushima anti-nuclear group “Sayonara Genpatsu,” Oe has a powerful oeuvre of speeches and essays in defense of democracy, peace, and environmentalism.   Yet even if we agree with these writings conceptually, emotionally they disappoint.  Why is it so hard to like them? This talk uses Eve Sedgwick’s notions of “paranoid” and “reparative” critical strategies to consider Oe’s anti-nuclear humanism as a kind of “aggressive hypothesis” - elegant in its simplicity, but ultimately tautological, with too few lines of flight outside a rigid temporality of repeated injury. 

Mimi Long is Associate Professor of Japanese and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Riverside.  Her book This Perversion Called Love: Reading Tanizaki, Feminist Theory and Freud was published by Stanford in 2009.  Her current project is an eco-humanities look at public intellectuals in Japan and the 3.11 nuclear disaster.  Titled Force, Affect, Origin: On Being Worthy of the Event, the book reads recent work by manga artist Hagio Moto, filmmaker Kamanaka Hitomi, web activist Iwakami Yasumi, political scientist Kang Sangjung, and writer Oe Kenzaburo, among others.

"Exploring Ireland’s Literary Communities," James O’Sullivan, Penn State

When Nov 17, 2014
from 12:15 PM to 01:25 PM
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Using various computational methods, this study will explore Ireland’s literary communities through analyses of the nation’s leading contemporary journals. A very brief introduction to macro-analytics will be offered, before some of the study’s key findings will be presented and discussed. Possible influences from social and economic transformations will be charted, while any regional disparities will also be delineated. A number of other particularities will also be accounted for, including gender and editorial networks.

James O’Sullivan is the Digital Humanities Research Designer at the Pennsylvania State University. He holds graduate degrees in computer science and literary studies, and is currently completing his PhD at University College Cork. His work has been published in a variety of interdisciplinary journals, including Leonardo and the International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing. James is Chair of the Colloquium at the University of Victoria’s Digital Humanities Summer Institute, and in 2014 was shortlisted for the Fortier Prize for Digital Humanities research. Further details on James and work can be found at josullivan.org.

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

When Nov 10, 2014
from 12:15 PM to 01:25 PM
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This is an investigation into how post-colonial readings of Shakespeare’s The Tempest can help us understand the “Calibanic genealogy” that allowed certain authors to invert the fin-de-siècle assumptions that placed Ariel’s spiritual virtues ahead of Caliban’s raw corporeality. My hypothesis is that Prospero’s Mirror (an influential text by the U.S. scholar Richard Morse) is an “exaggerated” reading of Sérgio Buarque de Holanda’s classic Roots of Brazil that imagines Ibero-America as the real promised land of Western civilization, as opposed to the failure of the United States as a civilizational model.

Pedro Meira Monteiro is Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Princeton University, where he is also the Acting Director of the Program in Latin American Studies. He is the co-director of the Princeton-University of São Paulo global network on Race and Citizenship in the Americas. The author and editor of several books, such as Mário de Andrade e Sérgio Buarque de Holanda: Correspondência (Edusp/Companhia das Letras, 2012) and Cangoma Calling: Spirits and Rhythms of Freedom in Brazilian Jongo Slavery Songs (University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, 2013), he also contributes regularly to Brazilian newspapers and magazines.

"Black Enlightenment: The Case of Kant and Wheatley," Surya Parekh, Penn State

When Nov 03, 2014
from 12:15 PM to 01:25 PM
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Recent scholarship in the Black Radical Tradition argues that the legacies and inheritances of the Enlightenment might be interpreted as always already in relation to blackness. This presentation explores this claim by reading two popular 18th century texts against each other: Immanuel Kant’s Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime and Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. Framing these texts as sharing an Enlightenment discourse, this presentation shows that Kant’s work covers a complex moment in which the comportment of black women within the "deepest slavery" is represented as one of respect and submission. The presentation turns to Phillis Wheatley’s poetry to respond. What lessons does Wheatley’s philosophizing lyrical I teach us - about the provenance of the Enlightenment, 18th century Afro-Diasporic intellectual production, and the politics of fraternity - speaking to a universal from within slavery and written from, if the accounts are correct, a comportment of respect and submission?

Surya Parekh is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Africana Research Center at the Pennsylvania State University. Previously, he was the 2013-14 Alain Locke Postdoctoral Fellow at Penn State. His research is critically attuned to the (dis)figuration of the Enlightenment subject in contemporary scholarship. Currently, he is completing a book monograph, provisionally titled Reading the Black Enlightenment: Black Subjectivity, Indigeneity, and the Cosmopolitan,which explores the 18th century literary and philosophical production of Afro-British/Afro-American and Native American authors and their traffic with a dominant Enlightenment discourse.

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

When Oct 27, 2014
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Fadi A. Bardawil joined the Department of Asian Studies at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill this fall, after spending three years as a Harper Fellow at the University of Chicago's Society of Fellows. An anthropologist by training (PhD Columbia, 2010), his work which lies at the crossroads of political anthropology and intellectual history looks into the lives and works of contemporary modernist Arab thinkers in the context of the international circulation of social theory. Currently, he is working on a book manuscript provisionally titled In Marxism's Wake: Disenchanted Levantine Intellectuals and Metropolitan Traveling Theories. His writings have appeared, and are forthcoming, in the Journal for Palestine Studies (Arabic edition), Boundary 2, Jadaliyya, Kulturaustausch, and al-Akhbar daily (2006-2012).

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

When Oct 20, 2014
from 12:15 PM to 01:25 PM
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This talk approaches a longstanding question in modernist studies through a different critical route: how are we to study global modernisms without replicating the Anglo-European criteria of what "counts" as modernist (formally, temporally, spatially), and at the same time, preserve some sense of what "modernism" means as a movement?  I aim to reorient our thinking on this question by leaving London at the center of a global literary phenomenon, but by demonstrating the ways in which its institutions--and the English language--were only a temporary way station for some more fruitful modernist exchanges.  I follow the translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s works from Bengali to English to Spanish: in English, his fame was short-lived and precarious, while in Spanish, thanks to the extensive and creative translations by Juan Ramón Jiménez, he remains an influential poetic figure.  The world republic of letters contained exchanges of modernist texts, styles, and critiques that went far beyond London, New York, Paris, or Berlin, of course, and one way to recover them, I argue, is to reconceive translation as a practice that decenters modernism and shows its lateral emergence across a range of disparate literary economies. 

Gayle Rogers is associate professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.  He is the author of Modernism and the New Spain: Britain, Cosmopolitan Europe, and Literary History (2012), and of publications in PMLAModernism/modernity, Comparative Literature, Journal of Modern Literature, James Joyce Quarterly, and other journals.  His current book projects are Modernism: Evolution of an Idea (co-written with Sean Latham forthcoming 2015) and Between Literary Empires: Translation and the Comparative Emergence of Modernism, a study of English/Spanish translation practices from the Spanish-American War of 1898 to the present. 

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

When Oct 13, 2014
from 12:15 PM to 01:25 PM
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One of the most pervasive models for “world” and “global” literature has been the formula foreign form and local content. New literature issues, we are told, from the introduction of a foreign form into a local environment. Although Franco Moretti and others have usually applied the paradigm to the novel, what happens when it is put to the test with other genres, such as poetry? What is the place of such ideas in understanding poetry in a global age? Critically reexamining the foreign form and local content model in relation to postcolonial and Western poems written in English, this paper seeks to develop alternative ways of conceptualizing poetry and other literary forms in their global dimensionality.

Jahan Ramazani is Edgar F. Shannon Professor of English at the University of Virginia. His books include A Transnational Poetics (2009), winner of the Harry Levin Prize, and Poetry of Mourning: The Modern Elegy from Hardy to Heaney (1994), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His most recent book is Poetry and Its Others: News, Prayer, Song, and the Dialogue of Genres (2013). An associate editor of The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (2012), he has also co-edited several Norton anthologies.He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEH Fellowship, a Rhodes Scholarship, the William Riley Parker Prize, and the Thomas Jefferson Award, the University of Virginia’s highest honor.

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

When Oct 06, 2014
from 12:15 PM to 01:25 PM
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This paper explores the central role played by translation--and, in particular, by the translation of poetry--among members of Russia’s radical left in the nineteenth century. The paper will focus on the various functions of poetry translation in that historical context in order to outline a model for studying translation within the overall interpretive network that shapes both its production and reception.

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.

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

When Sep 29, 2014
from 12:15 PM to 01:25 PM
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The seventeenth-century Ethiopian book The Life and Struggles of Our Mother W&aumll&aumltt&auml 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 PÌ£etros (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.

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

When Sep 29, 2014
from 12:15 PM to 01:25 PM
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The seventeenth-century Ethiopian book The Life and Struggles of Our Mother W&aumll&aumltt&auml 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 PÌ£etros (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.