“The New Global Narrative of Emigration, Transmigration, and Remigration.” Northeast Modern Language Association Convention. Georgetown University. Washington, DC. March 21-24, 2019.

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The literature of migration transcends the traditional borders of national literatures, native languages, colonialism, racial and ethnic divides, and religion. These fictions both represent and critique the technological consumerism, transnational politics, and cultural conflicts of migration that have come to dominate globalism. Its authors—and sometimes their texts—are bi- or multilingual, even as the world Anglophone novel trades in an English language that has become the lingua franca of an increasingly cosmopolitan citizenry. Works such as Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West (2017), Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Refugees (2017), and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah (2013) ask whether the global novel can be “ours” in the same manner as a national literature or in the form of shared humanitarian values—like the “white helmet” volunteers of the Syrian crisis—of liberality, human rights, and a progressive, social democracy. Does such a transnational literature promote positive attributes through a crosspollination or eclecticism that more readily acquaints one culture with the unique differences of another, and might that lead to creative appropriation, pluralism, tolerance, and exposure to alternative systems of belief?

NEMLA Conference 2019 CFP

English 645: Cosmopolitanism and the Global Novel, Spring 2019

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Beyond GlobalizationIn an epoch of global economic interdependency, there has been a concomitant globalization of culture. On the one hand, the homogenization of culture through the dispersal of consumer goods and the saturation of mass media destroys the indigenous and authentic artifact. Native languages and religious practices, ethnic foods, handicraft arts and clothing, traditional music and entertainment face slow extinction. On the other hand, the transnational culture that arises may provide positive attributes through crosspollination or eclecticism that more readily acquaints one culture with the unique differences of another, sometimes leading to creative appropriation, pluralism, tolerance, and exposure to alternative systems of belief.

Cosmopolitanism has its origin in the assertion by Diogenes Laërtius, “I am a citizen of the world,” that he is kosmou politês, meaning that he did not identify with his local origin or caste but rather defined himself in terms of universalism and compassion for the other. But such a cosmopolitanism defined as katholikos (catholic, “universal”) has not been sufficiently extended in modernity to non-Western cultures. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari have proposed a transversalism that resists both the hegemony and homogeneity of late-capitalist globalization by highlighting incommensurable cultural differences and exposure to alternative idioms. Transversal cosmopolitans not only agree to shared values with others but submit to a “shared deterritorialization” in which they are as much operated upon by transversalism, altered in their conception of origin, participant in a line of becoming, mobile in state and cultural identity, as they are operating in a transversal exchange with the other. Transversals are oblique, “double captures” with the potential for change that affects both elements in a correspondence. The global novel is one such expression of transversal politics, not in an effort to arrive dialectically at mutual reassurances but as narratives that expose and foreground the différend which resists translation into a single global idiom.

Global novels transcend the traditional borders of national literatures, native languages, colonialism, racial and ethnic divides, and religion. These fictions both represent and critique the technological consumerism, transnational politics, and cultural conflicts of migration that have come to dominate globalism. Its authors—and sometimes their texts—are bi- or multilingual, even as the world Anglophone novel trades in an English language that has become the lingua franca of an increasingly cosmopolitan citizenry. We will ask whether the global novel can be “ours” in the same manner as a national literature or in the form of shared humanitarian values—like the “white helmet” volunteers of the Syrian crisis—of liberality, human rights, and a progressive, social democracy, or whether such novels are merely another item on the checkout receipt of the marketplace of popular ideas and entertainment.

Works for extended discussion may include: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah (2013); Roberto Bolaño, The Savage Detectives (2007); Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss (2006); Dave Eggers, A Hologram for the King (2013) or What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng (2006); Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend (2012); Ha Jin, Nanjing Requiem (2012); Mohsin Hamid, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (2013) or Exit West (2017); Adam Kirsch, Writing the World in the 21st Century (2016); Colum McCann, TransAtlantic (2014); Christian Moraru, Cosmodernism: American Narrative, Late Globalization, and the New Cultural Imaginary (2011); Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore (2006); Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003); Martha C. Nussbaum, For Love of Country? (2002); Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul: Memories and the City (2003); W. G. Sebald, The Emigrants (1992); Mariano Siskind, Cosmopolitan Desires: Global Modernity and World Literature in Latin America (2014); Zadie Smith, White Teeth (2000) or NW (2013). Other literary and critical readings will be available through UB Learns or on graduate course reserve.

Course requirements will include a twenty-minute seminar presentation by all enrolled students and a twenty-page research paper from those students registered intensively.

 

English 379: Film Adaptation of the Novel, Spring 2019

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cloud-atlas-film-tie-inThis online installment of Film Genres will examine film adaptations of the contemporary novel. Literary fiction provides a rich, original source for story, character and setting in feature films. And yet the director, screenwriter, and actors are inevitably faced with challenges in successfully transferring a predominantly textual art into a visual and auditory medium. Especially with well-known classic works such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925), recently adapted by director Baz Luhrmann, the problem of fidelity to the original novel arises. The editing of long prose fictions to fit within the typical two-hour duration of feature films gives the most gifted screenwriter migraines. Sometimes, however, a script may be augmented with scenes or characters not present in the original for a coherent representation of the story on screen. Literature that heavily relies on interior monologue and narration rather than external dramatic action or dialogue poses a nearly insurmountable hurdle for adaptation. We should also consider that novels are most often sole-authored works of the imagination that, in the words of Irish writer and humorist Flann O’Brien, are “self-administered in private,” while films are very much collective enterprises demanding the skills of hundreds of people and, ideally, screened in public theaters to large appreciative audiences.

First, we’ll read David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004), with its six overlapping storylines and recurrent characters; and then compare its ambitious adaptation by directors Tom Tykwer, Lana and Lilly Wachowski (The Matrix Trilogy) in 2012. We’ll then read Ian McEwan’s historical novel of class and moral responsibility, Atonement (2001), set in England in 1935, during World War II, and in present day England. Its adaptation by director Joe Wright in 2007 confronts the multiple historical settings and the complex subjectivity of the novel’s characters.

Next on the program will be a novel by a postmodern writer whose challenging work has been resistant to adaptation. We’ll read Thomas Pynchon’s psychedelic  detective novel, Inherent Vice (2009), and then ponder Paul Thomas Anderson’s truly “gonzo” adaptation (2014), featuring Joaquin Phoenix as the pot-smoking private eye, Larry “Doc” Sportello, which must be one of the weirdest literary-filmic adventures you can have—without the influence of cannabis or other psycho-pharmaceuticals. Mohsin Hamid, who appeared in Just Buffalo’s Babel series in October, is renowned for his novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007), a monologue by a Princeton-educated Pakistani émigré who returns to Lahore after 9/11 to lecture in the classroom against American imperialism. The suspenseful confrontation at a Lahore café between Changez and a nameless American, most likely a CIA operative, is brilliantly captured on film by Indian director Mira Nair (2012).

This course will be conducted online through UB Learns, with streaming of films through the Multimedia Library’s Digital Campus online service. Students will be required to participate in weekly graded blogs and complete two writing assignments and peer reviews on the novels and films.

 

NEMLA 2018 Convention, Pittsburgh

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NEMLA 2018 Pittsburgh

Friday, April 13 10:00-11:30 am

7.6 Global Literature in the Age of Trump (Roundtable)

This roundtable endeavors to assess the influence of Donald Trump’s 2016 election on literature in the US and around the world.

Transversal Cosmopolitanism and the Post-9/11 Global Novel

I read the post-9/11 global novel as an expression of transversal politics, as narratives that expose the différendwhich resists translation into a single global idiom; and I identify those characters who are cosmopolites, global citizens, who instigate a shared deterritorialization or double capture, or who may be types of an ethnocentric nationalism advanced by the 2016 Presidential election that is in the process of transversal transformation. I examine two novels that traverse in bi-social fashion the fractious relationship between Islam and the west. Amy Waldman’s The Submission(2011) confronts the profiling, racism, and backlash towards Muslims in America after 9/11. The protagonist of the novel, Mohamed Khan, is a well-educated professional and nonobservant Muslim who is forced by political circumstance to reconsider his US citizenship, his practice, and his faith. Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist(2007) reconsiders the American abroad who is both naïf and ugly in his encounter with the other, innocent and guilty of a civilized savaging of a foreign land. Both protagonists ultimately leave the US to become global citizens.

“Virtual Reality”

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Chapter 18 in American Literature in Transition: 1990-2000, edited by Stephen J. Burn. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2017. 279-94.

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The night of January 17, 1991, when laser-guided smart bombs and Tomahawk cruise missiles rained down on Baghdad at the start of the first Persian Gulf War, marked a transitionary moment from analogue to digital media. The legacy forms of broadcast TV, print fiction, and 2-D cinematic projection would be gradually replatformed by the new media of cable TV, ebooks, game boxes, and virtual reality.

Howard Rheingold’s Virtual Reality (1991) touted the “ten-year rule,” according to which computer enthusiasts by the millions—in 2001—would be interacting directly with virtual worlds through their desktop VR engines. But films of the 1990s, such as Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days (1995) and David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ (1999), and novels such as Pat Cadigan’s Synners (1991), Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash (1992), and Richard Powers’s Plowing the Dark (2000), uniformly present VR as the usher to a postmillennial apocalypse. Their dystopias are a means by which the legacy media of print fiction and the cinema “remediate” both the false promises and the disturbing threats of an artificial reality that would supplant them. Some say that with the technological improvements introduced by Oculus Rift or Google Glass, VR’s moment in media history has finally arrived in the 21st century; some say that for VR and its funny goggles, its future has already passed.

Virtual reality; dystopia; remediation; Avant-Pop; Pat Cadigan; Mark Lehner; Richard Powers; Howard Rheingold; Neal Stephenson

Cosmopolitanism vs. Globalization

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I will present a lecture, “Transversal Cosmopolitanism and the Global Novel,” at the Cosmopolitanism vs. Globalization Symposium, sponsored by the Department of Jewish Thought, the Humanities Institute, and the Baldy Center at the University at Buffalo, on Monday, October 23, in 508 O’Brian Hall.

Cosmopolitanism Conference

Cosmopolitanism Conference

Abstract:

Transversal cosmopolitanism offers resistance to both the hegemony and homogeneity of globalization through the highlighting of incommensurable cultural difference, the fostering of creative appropriation, and an exposure to alternative systems of belief or idioms.

Cosmopolitanism occupies the same pathways of (de)differentiation and (de)territorialization as globalization, but at every point its relation to the hegemonic flow is transversal rather than oppositional, diagonal rather than dialectical. Transversality in Deleuze and Guattari’s “lines of flight” accounts for hybridity, the combination of elements that correspond obliquely on what would otherwise be separate and non-communicating pathways. Transversals are “double captures” with the potential for change that affects both elements in a correspondence.

I read the post-9/11 global novel as an expression of transversal politics, as narratives that expose the différend which resists translation into a single global idiom; and I identify those characters who are cosmopolites, global citizens, who instigate a shared deterritorialization or double capture, or who may be types of an ethnocentric nationalism advanced in the 2016 Presidential election that is in the process of transversal transformation. I examine four novels that traverse in bi-social fashion the fractious relationship between Islam and the west. Amy Waldman’s The Submission (2011) and Laila Halaby’s Once in a Promised Land (2007) confront the profiling, racism, and backlash towards Muslims in America after 9/11. The protagonists of both novels are well-educated professionals and nonobservant Muslims who are forced by political circumstance to reconsider their citizenship, their practices, and their faith. Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) and Dave Eggers’ A Hologram for the King (2012) reconsider the American abroad who is both naïf and ugly in his encounter with the other, innocent and guilty of the civilized savaging of a foreign land. All four protagonists leave the US to become global citizens.

English 301: Criticism (Fall 2017)

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Escaping Criticism, Pere Borrell de Caso (1874)

Pere Borrell de Caso, Escaping Criticism (1874)

This version of Criticism will be devoted to the problem of postmodernism. We struggle to find an appropriate definition for an historical period that may have begun, according to architectural theorist Charles Jencks, on July 15, 1972, when the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis was demolished, and may have ended with the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001. For some, postmodernity cannot be defined, or is so beset with a deep form of irony that no definitive statement about it could possibly apply. We can, however, address certain issues that arise in the debates on postmodernism. Jean-François Lyotard argues that postmodernism is accompanied by incredulity, a new skepticism toward the grand narratives of Western culture, or the Big Lies. Marxist theorist Fredric Jameson suggests that the style of postmodernism is nothing more than the hyperinflation of a consumer economy, or the Big Buys. Charles Jencks contends that all postmodern buildings—and by extension, the images we encounter in our environment—are “double coded,” with aspects of both popular and elite culture. And, of course, there is irony. As Umberto Eco says, in his Postscript to The Name of the Rose, it is no longer possible to say “I love you madly.” It only possible to say, because romance novelist Barbara Cartland has already said it, “As Barbara Cartland says, ‘I love you madly.’”

We will read several essays on postmodernity collected in Jencks, ed. The Post-Modern Reader, 2nd ed. (2011). But since our goal will be to “perform” criticism, we’ll also read three fictions that respond to the question of postmodernity directly or indirectly: Margaret Atwood’s dystopian (and newly relevant) feminist novel, The Handmaid’s Tale (1986); Paul Auster’s reflexive detective novel, City of Glass (1985), and Don DeLillo’s satire of simulacral culture, White Noise (1985). In two midsemester writing assignments and a final critical essay, we will try to ascertain the degree to which the theory and practice of postmodernism are related.