Globalizing the Novel

June 5, 2017

On March 9, 2017, The Novel Project at Duke and DUMESC sponsored a day-long event called "Globalizing the Novel," with guest speakers Mariano Siskind (Harvard), Jean-Marie Jackson (Johns Hopkins), and Anna Bernard (King's College London). The event lasted from 10:00 am until 5:30 pm at the Franklin Humanities Center Garage and was attended by many faculty members and students.

DUMESC Director Erdağ Göknar introduced the workshop: "We're honored to be hosting a symposium on Globalizing the Novel, a topic that emerged after two years of meeting with colleagues, discussing our own work on the novel, and inviting writers and scholars from around the world to discuss the novel in global contexts. ... Broadly, these discussions have raised important issues about new global imaginaries while critiquing 'one-worldness,' a problematic which we hope to explore further with the guidance of today's collectively selected speakers."

The first speaker was Anna Bernard, professor of English and Comparative Literature at King's College London. Her talk was entitled: "Hebrew, Arabic, and Death: Palestine/Israel and the Global Novel." Bernard's talk was based on her book, Rhetorics of Belonging: Nation, Narration and Israel/Palestine (University of Liverpool, 2013). Professor Göknar says of her work, "She [Bernard] restores the category of the 'nation' to contemporary literary criticism and theory by attending to a context where the idea of the nation is so central to everyday experience that on one hand writers cannot address it, and on the other readers cannot help but read for it. Her work points the way toward a relational literary history of Israel/Palestine that would situate Palestinian and Israeli writing within a history of antagonistic interaction that is key to imagining the region's political future."

The second speaker was Jeanne-Marie Jackson, professor of English at Johns Hopkins, and her talk was entitled, "The Global Novel of Non-Ideas: The African Death of Philosophical Suicide." "Jackson's work engages the non-syncretic pluralism that characterizes some of the most interesting novels presently coming out of the new and relatively unstable geopolitical areas of Africa. ... She characteristically challenges the limits of 'global' methodologies in contemporary literary studies and outdated models of center-periphery relations to argue for a more local scale of literary enquiry," explains Professor Göknar.

The final speaker was Mariano Siskind, the chair of Romance Language and Literatures at Harvard University. His talk, "Post-Global and After-Cosmopolitan: Contemporary Literary Dislocations of the Non-World," is based on his book, Cosmopolitan Desires: Global Modernity and World Literature in Latin America (Northwestern University Press, 2014). Siskind "interrogates the concept of the global novel from the perspective of regional cosmopolitanism — and vice versa," says Professor Göknar. 

After the final talk, a roundtable discussion was convened to address the following questions: "Do these papers, taken together, offer something like a composite global perspective; if so, What kind of world is it? If no, how do the speakers' differences in subject matter register at the level of form and at the level of critical argument? Last but not least, What relation do these novels carry on with global capitalism and what characterizes the continuing hegemony of European languages?"

This event was organized by The Novel Project at Duke and supported by funds from Duke University Middle East Studies Center, the Office of the Deans of Trinity College, and the Franklin Humanities Institute.