A New Orientalism? The Question of Literature as Such and Islamic Fundamentalism

Venue: Room GOR B04, Birkbeck, University of London, Bloomsbury, 43 Gordon Square, WC1H 0PD
Booking details: Free entry; booking required

One of the legacies of postcolonial criticism is the proposition that modern literature itself, in the form it takes in the Renaissance and after, was itself complicit in the processes of European colonization of the world, that literature and literary education are a "mask of conquest."   This talk will use that insight to explore the representation of an Islamic or Arab subject in three texts from the first decade of the 21st century. These are Michel Houellebecq's novel Soumission (Submission), Orhan Pamuk's novel Snow, and Michael Haneke's film Caché (Hidden).   The underlying question here is about the relation between vernacular literature as such and modernity, or a claim to modernity. The talk will conclude with some thoughts on the representation of an Islamic Other in the founding text of literary modernity, Cervantes's Don Quijote.

John Beverley is Distinguished Professor of Hispanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pittsburgh, where he teaches critical theory and literature.   He is the author or editor of some twenty books, including Essays on the Baroque, Against Literature, Subalternity and Representation, The Postmodernism Debate in Latin America, Testimonio and the Politics of Truth, and Latinamericanism after 9/11.   He was part of the group, including Gayatri Spivak, and Paul Bove, that created the Graduate Program in Cultural Studies at the University of Pittsburgh in the 1980s, one of the first such programs in the US academy. He was a founding member of the Latin American Subaltern Studies Group.  He now co-edits the University of Pittsburgh Press series, Illuminations. Cultural Formations of the Americas. He serves on the editorial boards of boundary 2 and the Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, among others.  His most recent seminar was on Roberto Bolaño's novel 2666, and he is working currently on a collection of essays about what might be called the "post" of postcolonialism.

Free event open to all: Book your place here.

Hosted by Birkbeck's Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies, this event is part of Birkbeck Arts Week 2017 - see the full programme here.