11:00am - 11:30am
Minor literatures and major trends: some notes on coming to terms with the past from a perpetrator perspective
University of the Free State, South Africa
Despite its obvious variables and many differences Afrikaans, Austrian and German literature can be compared in terms of its engagement with and memorialization of the respective difficult pasts that define its recent histories: coming to terms with the atrocities of WWII in Europe and the aftermath of Apartheid in South Africa. The subsequent and respective memory cultures that came into being usually are construed with reference to the perpetrator perspectives often attributed to it. But if the trajectory of German collective memory and literature were to be regarded as establishing the norm of a “politics of regret”, it is noteworthy that Austrian literature took much longer to engage with its WWII past than was the case of Afrikaans literature with regards to its engagement with Apartheid. This paper proposes that Deleuze and Guattari’s interpretation of “major” and “minor” literatures can be used as a theoretical tool to describe these differences. Extrapolating the spectrum of meaning of “minor literatures” from their work on “assemblages”, a configuration of four concepts (minor, minority, major, and majority) can be used to explain the different trajectories of the respective literatures. Based on their differentiation between “forms of content” and “forms of expression” the minor-minority-major-majority configuration allows for an explanation of how literatures, as an important part of a respective memory culture, and put in a dominated position, respond in a different (i.e. quicker) way to established norms than those literatures that find itself in a dominating position.
11:30am - 12:00pm
The Resistance of World Literature: J. M. Coetzee’s The Master of Petersburg and a Deleuzian Aesthetics of Dissent
University of St Andrews, United Kingdom
The problem of world literature persists as a question of literature as a political or real-world force. For Pascale Casanova, her critique of Deleuze and Guattari’s reading of Kafka as a minor writer is revealing in this respect: for Kafka politics was never deterritorializing, but rather inseparable from the national project. In other words, so far as literature may evoke politics, it must do so as a reflection of a current state of affairs; a view that has found notable currency in world literature theory, such that the Warwick Research Collective argues that the role of the critic is simply to trace the ‘literary “registration” of the world-system’, an activity that ‘does not (necessarily) involve criticality or dissent’.
In this paper I seek to contest the marginalisation of dissent within world literature theory through the work of a writer often dismissed as politically ineffective, J. M. Coetzee. His reimagining of the life of Dostoevsky as he drafts the censored chapter of Demons, ‘At Tikhon’s’, in The Master of Petersburg, opens a space for the interrogation of revolutionary politics. I read Coetzee’s novel through the lens of Deleuze’s ‘Bartleby; or, The Formula’, as a way to explore minor literature’s capacity for dissent, revealing a world that is always caught between deterritorialisation and territorialisation, a revolutionary becoming and the return of ‘monstrous fathers’. Coetzee’s novel recalls the fragility of minor becomings and the persistent threat of new forms of domination. Nonetheless, with Deleuze, he also reminds us that the work of world literature is much, much more than a passive reflection of what currently is.
12:00pm - 12:30pm
Horsing Around: On Multiple Deterritorializations in Franz Kafka's 'Wish to Become a Red Indian'
Tel Aviv University, Israel
Kafka's 'Wish to Become a Red Indian', a very short story starting with 'Oh to be a Red Indian, ready in an instant, riding a swift horse' and ending abruptly in 'being already without horse’s neck and horse’s head!', is an extremely loaded vignette, bursting with potential deterritorializations. It is a forceful work of untethered desire, a vigorous wish or will rushing through multiple plateaus, crossing geographical boundaries and bodily thresholds in a flash.
In my paper I will draw a rhizomatic map of some of the extensive trajectories and intensive becomings taking place in Kafka's short tale, in an act of literary, metaphysical and political cartography. Hence from Prague I might take flight on Kafka's words to America, with its indigenous peoples and its prairies, where I might join Kafka's Indian in the process of becoming-horse and see where it takes me. I might then find myself back in Central Europe, reterritorialized on Freud's Ego as the domineering rider of the Id as horse, or on Little Hans's horse as Father in Freud's eyes. Perhaps the same Little Hans, possibly with the aid of Nietzsche, will then propagate another intense coalescence of man and horse, this time a draught horse, deterritorializing both human and animal. Or else I might try to imagine how the exterritorial European horse would appear in the eyes of the Native American to begin with. In short, I will trot along a few of the numerous lines drawn by the phantasmatic, delirious words of Kafka-becoming-Indian.
12:30pm - 1:00pm
The Relation of Style and Thought
National University of Singapore
That the existence of style, or poetics, or the literary uses of language, has always been, is, and will continue to be a problem for thought is hardly controversial. At least for those in the arts, continental theory, or literary studies, and all their corresponding subfields, that there is a relation between style and thought is hardly disputed, perhaps even assumed. However, precisely what constitutes this relation remains unclear. The importance of this enquiry is twofold. On one hand, the historical disprivileging of style provokes us to wonder what about style was so horrifying that it had to be put down, in various forms, with various tools, by various thinkers; and what legacy this bias has left behind for thought. On the other, there appears an implicit, sometimes explicit, disdain for stylistic presentations of thought in contemporary scholarship, where just one generation ago we were in the hold of some of the most poetic, experimental, and playful thought history had ever seen, exemplified largely by the wave of French poststructuralist theorists of the 20th century. Whether it be in the rise of what we could call Analytic Philosophy across the anglosphere or the emerging thought of the Speculative Realists, both schools though apparently divergent, seem to be engaged in thought that seeks clarity and precision over style and poetics. The task of the present research thus seeks to examine what precisely the relation between thought and style is.