The Humanities Department’s Rhetoric, Theory and Culture 2014-15 Colloquium Series is pleased to welcome Gareth Williams, Professor of Spanish and Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Michigan. Professor Williams’ talk is entitled “2666, or The Novel of Force.” It will take place on Friday, April 3rd, at 5 pm, in Forestry G002 (refreshments will be available). All are welcome!
Here is the abstract for Professor Williams’ talk:
Upon the Nazi invasion of France in 1940, Simone Weil penned one of her most renowned essays dealing with the relation between force and the foundation of the city, titled “The Iliad, or the Poem of Force”. Roberto Bolaño’s 2004 novel 2666 is a fictionalized attempt to approach the murder of hundreds of working class women in and around the city of Santa Teresa (Ciudad Juárez) in the deserts of northern Mexico from the 1990s to the present. The novel also offers a sustained reflection on the double originality of the political, that is, the constitutive relation between reason and force. At the heart of the novel’s aesthetic is the questioning of the relation between war as the register and experience of the everyday and the contemporary grasped as (im)possible metaphorization, which in turn raises the question of what is possible in literature, in life, in the face of death.
Professor Williams is the author of The Other Side of the Popular: Neoliberalism and Subalternity in Latin America (2002), The Mexican Exception: Sovereignty, Police, and Democracy (2011), and numerous articles examining the relation between cultural history, literature, and political philosophy. He is one of today’s key thinkers about Latin American politics and culture.
For more information, please contact Marcelino Viero-Ramos.
Photo credit: Shaul Schwarz for The New York Times
Dana Van Kooy, Assistant Professor of Transnational Literature, has received an appointment as a Huntington Library Mayers Fellow along with a grant to support her archival research this summer. The Huntington Library is one of the largest and most complete research libraries in the United States. The Huntington is known for its extraordinary collection of rare books and manuscripts in the fields of British and American history and literature.
Laura Kasson Fiss (HU) published a paper entitled “Pushing at the Boundaries of the Book: Humor, Mediation, and Distance in Carroll, Thackeray, and Stevenson” in The Lion and the Unicorn.
Alice pushes at the boundary of the book as she travels through the looking glass. John Tenniel’s twin illustrations of her journey in the first edition of Through the Looking Glass (1872) occur on either side of a single page (see Figs. 1 and 2). The mirrored orientation of the two images means that each pair of objects is printed back-to-back. Only Alice travels in one side and out the other, her head piercing the page. Her extended right hand presses on the surface of the looking glass, which ripples before giving way. That ripple on the surface of the page suggests that the page, like the looking glass, is a semipermeable membrane that the right reader can enter. Indeed, on the other side of the looking glass, Alice meets creatures out of storybooks, such as Humpty Dumpty and the Tweedles, whose stories she recalls. As readers follow Alice’s immersion, they too must place a hand upon the page—but the page turns precisely because they encounter solid resistance.
Alice’s journey through the page literalizes the metaphor of reading as immersive that has characterized descriptions of Victorian reading starting in the period itself. Yet calling attention to the mechanism of immersive reading paradoxically breaks the illusion. Nicholas Dames addresses this issue in the works of W. M. Thackeray and others by arguing that Victorians conceived of attentive reading not as a steady state but as cycling between intense involvement and contemplative reverie (82–83). This intriguing theory takes on additional ramifications when considered in relation to Victorian children’s literature, especially humorous material such as Carroll’s Alice books. The conceit of the child reader enables an additional level of play. Naturally, the cautionary notes sounded by Jacqueline Rose and James Kincaid about the problematic roles of child muses also apply to implied child readers, but so does Marah Gubar’s response that authors, aware of their own totalizing authority, created space for collaboration (Artful Dodgers, passim), in this case with and among child and adult readers. In addition to Carroll, two authors of humorous children’s texts who made their reputations by writing for adults, William Makepeace Thackeray and Robert Louis Stevenson, use humor and depictions of reading to represent both the immersive Wonderland of fiction and the material, mediated pleasures of getting there.