2019-20: Margins and Minorities Series
Description: The 2019-20 lecture series at Temple University develops the analytic category of “minor” in order to explore how the discourses of authority operate, how they are exposed from the margins, and how they enable reflections on ongoing historical and cultural formations.
2017: Narratives of Global Cultures Series
Description: The Spring 2017 interdisciplinary lecture series at Temple University investigates the mechanisms by which global “cultures” are produced and reproduced in narrative. For some, such as the authors of a polemical editorial in n+1, new “global” narratives are nothing but an economic venture designed to enrich metropolitan producers who happily purvey a version of globalization that leaves its Northern priorities intact. The world that such narratives purvey is “world-lite,” the title of n+1’s widely cited broadside from 2013. Others including the critic Ian Baucom have praised recent “global” novels such as those by the MacArthur “genius” winner, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, for “render[ing] this new world visible and offer[ing] themselves as instruments for its negotiation” (2014).
This series explores the kinds of narratives that emerge for those who insist the world is flat—as well as those who find it incommensurably round. Our understanding of culture incorporates both the lived practices of subalterns and the textual artifacts of those whose ideas and ideologies define the landscapes of global modernity. We regard culture as those processes that play a role in cultivating the notion of a collective. Culture describes the many practices that enable and expand, but also regulate and confine the self-fashioning of groups. Culture has multiple histories and ideologies: it is simultaneously fluid and inert, consensual and contested, produced by those within a nation’s boundaries and without, by those opposed to the state and aligned with it, in dialogue with and in diatribe against the structures of power. Our notion of culture encompasses the many modernities that propel contemporary global identities.
Caroline Levine (Cornell): “Thinking in General”
Feb. 22, 2017
Abstract: The talk asks whether the humanities’ now longstanding focus on singularities is getting in the way of another of our aspirations—the desire for political change. It will propose a generalizing method based on a formalist reading method.
Bio: Caroline Levine has spent her career asking how and why the humanities and the arts matter, especially in democratic societies. She argues for the understanding of forms and structures as crucial to understanding links between art and society. Forms, Levine urges in the eponymous book, organize not only works of art but also political life–and our attempts to know both art and politics. Inescapable and frequently troubling, forms shape every aspect of our experience. Yet, forms don’t impose their order in any simple way. Multiple shapes, patterns, and arrangements, overlapping and colliding, generate complex and unpredictable social landscapes that challenge and unsettle conventional analytic models in literary and cultural studies. Levine is the author of three books, The Serious Pleasures of Suspense: Victorian Realism and Narrative Doubt (2003, winner of the Perkins Prize for the best book in narrative studies), Provoking Democracy: Why We Need the Arts (2007), and Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network (2015; winner of the James Russell Lowell Award for best book by the MLA ; the 2016 Dorothy Lee Award for Outstanding scholarship by the Media Ecology Association; and one of Flavorwire’s “10 Must-Read Academic Books of 2015”). Levine is the nineteenth-century editor for the Norton Anthology of World Literature and has written on topics ranging from formalist theory to Victorian poetry and from television serials to academic freedom.
B. Venkat Mani (UW, Madison): “The Shadow of Empty Shelves: World Literature and the National Socialist Pact with Books”
March 1, 2017
Abstract: Mani discusses Nazi Germany as a case study, sharing archival findings on the role of the state in the construction of world literature. He argues that investigations of library and print cultural histories assist in understanding the relationship between the “republic” and its “reading public.” World Literature is historically conditioned, culturally determined, and politically charged, Mani proposes, and library and print cultural histories help to unfold multiple meanings of world literature.
Bio: B. Venkat Mani is Professor, Department of German, Nordic and Slavic at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research and teaching focus on 19th to 21st Century German literature and culture, world literature in translation, migration in the German and European context, book and digital cultural histories, and theories of globalization and transnationalism. He is the founder and co-director of UW-Madison’s World Literature/s Research Workshop. Across a body of pioneering scholarship that includes Cosmopolitical Claims: Turkish-German Literatures from Nadolny to Pamuk (2010), Mani studies the social and material lives of books as they shape and contest national ideal and identities. In the recently published, Recoding World Literature: Libraries, Print Culture, and Germany’s Pact with Books (2017) Mani argues that the proliferation of world literature is the function of a nation’s relationship with print culture: a Faustian pack with books. Publication, translation, and circulation occur across routes of what he calls “bibliomigrancy”— a journey in which books are both fugitive and native, refugees and citizens.
Andrew Piper (McGill) and Richard Jean So (U Chicago): “The Data of Cultural Inequality”
April 6, 2017
Abstract: This project uses the techniques of data science to challenge current trends towards cultural inequality and find value in the “long tail” of culture. As with wealth today, culture is dominated by a state of affairs in which a small minority of artists or works accrue the vast majority of sales or critical attention. And yet over the last two decades we have witnessed a massive proliferation of content online. This is the new “long tail” of culture, the cultural equivalent of the 99%. Until recently, we have had no real way of understanding this space or valuing it. This talk is about exploring our current state of inequality and the ways computation can be used to create more democratic and open forms of cultural valuation.
Bios: Andrew Piper is the William Dawson Scholar in the Dept. of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures and director of .txtLAB at McGill University. His papers on text mining the novel, academic prestige, the “value” of the MFA among others use computational approaches to understand literary and cultural phenomena. Piper is the author of two monographs, Book was There: Reading in Electronic Times (Chicago, 2012) and Dreaming in Books: The Making of the Bibliographic Imagination (Chicago, 2009; winner of the MLA’s Prize for the Best First Book and Honorable Mention for the ACLA’s Harry Levin Prize).
Richard Jean So is assistant professor of English at the University of Chicago and the author of Transpacific Community: America, China, and the Rise and Fall of a Global Cultural Network (Columbia, 2016). He is the author of a number of essays in MLQ, Critical Inquiry, and boundary2 that combine the strengths of traditional modes of criticism, such as close reading, with the advantages afforded by large scale pattern recognition and text mining.