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Decolonizing the University

Venue: Online

This guest lecture by Dr Daniel Hartley (Durham University) develops a theory of anti-imperial literacy in close readings of writing by Karl Marx and Raymond Williams. These ideas of mass education, aesthetic pleasure and the redistribution of wealth offer provocative historical insights for contemporary debates on decolonizing the university.


Dr Hartley’s talk will begin with a close reading of key passages from Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts, identifying a logic of aesthetic education that also informed Marx’s early theory of revolution, traces of which can still be found in the Grundrisse and Capital. In particular, it holds that for Marx the unfolding and / or redistribution of objective wealth is a necessary but insufficient condition for communism; it must be accompanied by a process of mass education that develops the subjective capacities necessary for the non-alienated appropriation and enjoyment of new objects. The second part of the talk then turns to a little-studied presidential address to the Classical Association given by Raymond Williams in 1984, entitled “Writing, Speech and the ‘Classical.’” This address develops a theory of anti-imperial literacy that will be read as a nuanced and detailed example of the process of aesthetic education implicit in Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts. The talk will then conclude with some brief reflections on the ways in which Marxist, cultural materialist frameworks might contribute to contemporary debates on decolonizing the university, whilst provisionally connecting those debates to a somewhat alternative historical and theoretical trajectory.

Speaker Bio:

Dr Daniel Hartley is Assistant Professor in World Literatures in English at Durham University. His research focuses on literary style, ‘world literature’ and the historical sociology of modernity. Daniel’s first book, The Politics of Style: Towards a Marxist Poetics (Brill: 2017), developed a systematic theory of literary style through an immanent critique of the work of Raymond Williams, Terry Eagleton and Fredric Jameson. Daniel has since continued to refine his thinking on style in articles for Poetics Today, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Literary Theory, and Textual Practice.


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