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Papers on Language and Literature
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Forthcoming 

Volume 56, Number 1, 2020

 

SPECIAL ISSUE: 

Fictions of Circulation and
the Question of World Literature

Gretchen Busl, Guest Editor

 
Essays

MERI WIMBERLY, “So Long a Letter: Mariama Bâ’s Migrating Text”

ABSTRACT: Mariama Bâ constructs her seminal work, Une si longue lettre (So Long a Letter), as a letter from the protagonist, a middle-class Senegalese mother and teacher, to her closest friend, who has emigrated to the U.S. So Long a Letter offers a localized Islamic feminism as a way women can advocate for themselves within local communities as an alternative to emigration and exile from those communities. The novel articulates an eloquent justification for the decision to stay: in an imperfect nation, a traditional faith, and a flawed marriage. However, the novel’s epistolary form is troubled by narrative interventions and formal discrepancies that raise the question of readership: Who constitutes the audience for works of literature by African women in 1979, when African literatures in French were largely exclusionary of female writers? This paper acknowledges the letter as a form of transnational communication—a migrating text—that comments on the phenomenon of “world literature.” Bâ’s troubled epistolary form leaves open the question as to whether her message about Islamic feminism will be legible to her indeterminate readership.

SVETLANA STEFANOVA, “Cultivating Anti-Oppressive Ethics: A Community-Grounded Reading of Caryl Phillips and J.M. Coetzee”

ABSTRACT: The aim of this essay is to identify and make explicit the ways in which a reading model can function as a vehicle for the expression of ethical concerns. An imagined dialogue between the works of Caryl Phillips and J.M. Coetzee affords the opportunity to address the increasingly global and nuanced allegiances of their readers. Like Rebecca Walkowitz’s “Comparison Literature” (2009), which builds a common ground for the understanding of their narratives, this essay draws on Benedict Anderson’s concept of “imagined communities.” My concern is less with the generic shape of their fiction, however, than with their engagement with universal moral values. I contend that a reading style that generates an imagined community between Phillips and Coetzee not only provides reciprocal illumination on their form of writing, but also cultivates broad anti-oppressive ethical attunement and nourishes allegiance to a global community of readers able to recognize exclusionary ideologies.

MARIANNE PERACCHIO, “Antonin Artaud—Vector”

ABSTRACT: A close reading of three performance events in the career of Antonin Artaud—French actor, director, theorist, playwright, and poet—reveals that Artaud’s theories of psychic revolution depended on bodily and textual translation on a global scale. Artaud’s performances and publications test his theory of transmission, one based on a negation of Pasteur’s germ theory. In the case of Antonin Artaud as vector, this paper will trace how Artaud re-interprets germ theory and appropriates non-Western esoteric practices in creative ways to test the possibility of transmitting subjective experience (suffering) through various embodied media: lecture, ritual, and radio. These performances are all self-consciously situated in a global political, scientific, and literary landscape of theory and anthropology that Artaud specifically localizes in the performing body.

LIAM LANIGAN reviews Combined and Uneven Development: Towards a New Theory of World-Literature by the Warwick Research Collective

SEAN SEEGER reviews The Global Novel: Writing the World in the 21st Century by Adam Kirsch

 

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