The MLAC events bulletin is now winding down for the year, but don’t miss these exciting events in the department over the next couple of weeks. Remember to send any MLAC-related stories to us here at the blog, using the contact buttons above.
Conference: World Literatures and the New Totalitarianism
15th May 2017, 13:00, IMLR/Senate House, London
At the beginning of 2017 we are faced with the specter of a new totalitarianism. It emerges from the victories of Trump, the Brexit camp, and far right candidates in Scandinavia and Poland. It anticipates a strong performance by Marine le Pen. It comes in the wake of the Russian plutocracy’s concentration of power and the recrudescence of Neo-Nazi movements in Greece and the Balkans. The teleological narrative many have been telling—of progressive cosmopolitanism, tolerance, relatively open borders, of urbanity in every sense of the word—has been challenged by the return of antisemitism, racism, ethno-nationalism, and anti-intellectualism. This new totalitarianism is very much like its predecessor: global in scope yet nationalist in articulation, populist in orientation yet elitist in practice, local in its appeals yet power-consolidating in practice, and profoundly hostile to the cultural and social milieu that have nurtured art, literature, and critique since the end of War II. But the new totalitarianism is amplified by technologies once understood as democratizing: the internet, social media, and the proliferation of popular news sources. And it is bolstered by the rise of authoritarian neoliberalism.
It is important for literary and cultural critics, as well as well as our peers in political science or sociology, to begin to address these questions. For not only are new forms of media involved in the new totalitarianism, so are new—and old—structures of imaginative construction and response. Analyzing, understanding, and tracing them is one step towards beginning to reshape them in the service of returning to a political sphere of tolerance and possibility. This conference, World Literatures and the New Totalitarianism, will seek to address such questions. It takes place on 15-16 May, 2017. Attendance is free, but you must register using the following link: http://www.sas.ac.uk/events/event/8058
Ecologies and the Arts Research Group & IMEMS Workshop: Professor Connie Scarborough [Texas Tech University]
17th May 2017, 15:00, Palace Green Learning Centre, Durham
Joint workshop with the Ecologies and the Arts research group. Connie Scarborough (Texas Tech University) will lead a discussion of Bryan Moore’s Ecology and Literature, focussing on the chapter ‘Anthropocentric and Ecological Anthropomorphism through Western History’
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Institute of Medieval & Early Modern Studies: Bob Mills (UCL) ‘The ‘Anthropological Machine’ in Medieval Art: Cows, Martyrs & Other Animals’
17th May 2017, 17:00, A56, Elvet Riverside I, Durham University
Please see attached for details of a talk by Bob Mills (UCL) to be given 17 May, 5pm. The talk is entitled: “The ‘Anthropological Machine’ in Medieval Art: Cows, Martyrs & Other Animals”. Bob is one of the most innovative scholars working on medieval visual culture, and his talk should have wide appeal to members of the School – he will in particular be engaging with the ideas of Giorgio Agamben about animality.
Just to let you know that the French Seminar Series workshop led by Bob Mills (UCL) involves a pre-circulated paper. Bob is one of the most interesting scholars working on medieval visual culture, and as you can see from the description below, the paper engages with animal studies and Agamben, so should be of wide interest to members of the School.
To receive a copy of the paper, please sign up at the link below.
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Transnationalism Research Group & Centre for Jewish Culture, Society and Politics Lecture: Professor Jonathan Freedman [Michigan] ‘Walter Benjamin’s Paris, Capital of Jewish Aesthetic Modernity’
18th May 2017, 17:00, Lindisfarne Centre, St Aidans College, Durham University
Prof. Jonathan Freedman (Michigan), “Walter Benjamin’s Paris, Capital of Jewish Aesthetic Modernity.” Co-sponsored by MLAC’s Transnationalism Research Group and the Centre for Jewish Culture, Society, and Politics. May 18, 17.00, Lindisfarne Centre, St. Aidan’s College. Followed by a drinks reception.
A trio of contexts conventionally define Walter Benjamin’s influential writings: German literature and philosophy, mystical Jewish thought, and Marxism. But there is a fourth that is oddly marginalized in the criticism: France. Benjamin spent much of the last ten years of his life in Paris, and theorized modernity with reference to Proust, Baudelaire, and its shopping arcades, among other texts and circumstances. (He imbibed hashish, for example, in Marseilles.) What happens if we take French culture in general—Paris in particular—as seriously as the other three? And what happens to Benjamin’s other intellectual engagements if we do so?
Consider Benjamin’s Jewishness. Franco-Jewish relations were quite different than those on offer in Benjamin’s native Germany. Uniquely in Europe, French Jews were accorded full citizenship from Napoleonic times on. But they faced a particularly grotesque array of hateful sentiments, climaxing in the Dreyfus affair but simmering throughout the century. From Fourier forward, French social thought identified Jews as the source of the ravages of capitalism, a tendency carried to hyperbolic extremes by Fourier’s followers, including, via Alphonse Toussenel, Benjamin’s beloved Baudelaire. I want to pursue these affinities, and specifically the unexpected consonance of Benjamin’s thought with that of anti-Semite Édouard Drumont, who added virulent racism to anticapitalism. To place Benjamin in this context is to make his political engagements that much more complex—and the theorization of modernity which has followed from his work that much more volatile.
Co-sponsored by the Transnationalism Research Group, the Centre for Jewish Culture, Society, and Politics, and the English Department.
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