Tag Archives: Comp Lit Events

Vicente L. Rafael’s Book Talk: “Motherless Tongues: The Insurgency of Language amid Wars of Translation”

By: Gabriel Bamgbose

On Tuesday, October 25 2016, Vicente L. Rafael, a professor of History and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle, graced Yolanda Martinez-San Miguel’s Comparative Literature graduate seminar, Introduction to Literary Theory: From World Literature to Pluriversality, with his visit to discuss his latest book, Motherless Tongues: The Insurgency of Language amid Wars of Translation, published by Duke University Press this year. The conversation took place in the Comp Lit Seminar Room. Yolanda opened the floor with an introduction of the guest, his intellectual project, and a question of how the book came into being. Rafael explained that the book was rather accidental, unlike his previous book projects, which were well conceived as a unified project and followed through as such. By this he meant that the book was a product of series writing for lectures and invitations. Moreover, it was a product of several years of involvement with Translation Studies. He talked enthusiastically about how his involvement with the Nida Institute and the Summer Institute of Linguistics had been instrumental in his intellectual project in Translation Studies. He provided a general background on the complicated linguistic and cultural context of the Philippines, which he explained as a plurilingual world. Of importance is the historical “fact” that there was no monumental culture (as opposed to the situation of China or India) in the Philippines, until the arrival of the missionaries and colonialism–of course multiple colonialities–that produced an environment of political instability, economic dependency, lack of ideology or, ironically, excess of ideologies, and identitarian undecidability as an existential condition, which should not be seen as a mark of shame but as a critical resource to draw on.

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With the background provided, the stage was set for students in the class to engage him with questions. The conversation glided from the concept of the accidental, the uncanny, and the repressed in the context of language, translation, and identity as central themes of the book; the notion of the literary and the gift of language with its force in his writing style; the issues of language and power relations, and the status of slang as a subversive language belonging to no one, yet available to everyone; the question of translation, conquest/war, untranslatability, and machine translation; the hegemonic status of English, the “wildness” of accent, and the semiotic power of sonic monstrosity; translation and the practice of self writing; language, memory, code switching, and creolization; to the idea of mistranslation as a structural necessity, the condition for the possibility of translation, as well as its continuity and change in different contexts. The conversation vigorously benefitted from putting Rafael’s ideas in critical conversation with the work of other scholars in Translation Studies and Comparative Literature, especially with the work of Emily Apter. The conversation, colored with wide-ranging ideas that drew on the diverse interests of the students, began at 2:00 pm and ended at 5:00 pm.

Everyone working on the politics of language and translation will find Rafael’s Motherless Tongues a very useful resource. And the fact that it presents powerful arguments crafted in a beautiful language also makes it an enjoyable read!

 

Brown Bag Talk with Louis Sass. “Lacan: The Mind of the Modernist”

By Rudrani Gangopadhyay

 

Professor Louis Sass (Rutgers GSAPP, Clinical Psychology) delivered the first Brown Bag Lecture of the year on “Lacan: The Mind of the Modernist”, much of the material of which came from his 2015 essay by the same name, published in Continental Philosophy.

Prof. Sass’s lecture was primarily aimed at providing an intellectual portray of Lacan by focussing the incorporation of modernist perspectives in the French psychoanalyst’s work. As a contrast, Professor Sass provided a background on Freud, who was anchored in a pre-modernist vision and was much more Cartesian and Kantian in his approach. Lacan, on the other hand, was far more skeptical of the naturalist preferences associated with Freud, and chose instead to transform as well as supplement the latter’s work.

The lecture focussed on two general issues with regards to Lacan’s work: the first being Lacan’s appreciation of the paradoxical nature of the human experience, as demonstrated by his concepts of the Self as well as that of Desire. The second issue was that of “transcendental subjectivity” in Lacan, consisting of the “Imaginary”, the “Symbolic”, and the “Real”, which together make up his Triad of Registers. In trying to offer a synthesis of both the dynamic and the ontological dimensions of the human condition in his idea of the conflicted yet interdependent Registers making up his Triad, Lacan also demonstrates a need to be understood in Heideggerian terms.

In contrast to popular belief, Prof. Sass’s lecture also repeatedly emphasized Lacan’s affinities with phenomenology, contradicting the widespread belief that Lacan is a deeply anti-humanist thinker. Rather, Lacan’s work seems to demonstrate an influence of hermeneutic forms of phenomenology, following Heidegger’s ideas on the ontological modes of Being.

Many Things to Remember: Comp Lit Year-end Celebration

By: Coco Ke Xu

Pictures by: Carolyn Ureña

Around two o’clock in the afternoon, the Comp Lit House on 195 College Ave. was already filled with a happy crowd of people. Students, faculties, families and friends greeted and talked to each other in a relaxing atmosphere over delightful refreshments. Balloons and decorations were everywhere, making the house even more homelike and welcoming.

Towards half past three, the celebration of graduating comp lit students began. Graduate director Prof. Andrew Parker announced graduating comp lit majors and minors first. Among four majors and 11 minors for the year 2016, Nicoletta M. Romano received highest honors for her dissertation titled “Exploring the Contemporary Phenomenon of a Postcolonizing Italian Reality through la letteratura migrante,” while Naser Albreeky and Catherine He received Honors degree for their respective dissertations “Poetic Forms, Daring Allegorization, and Contrasting Histories: All-Andalus and the Sephardic in the Poetry of Darwish and Lorca” and “The Nature of Language and East-West Dialogue.” Afterwards, graduating MA candidate Melina Gills and PhD candidate Ben De Witte were also awarded and commended for their hard work at comp lit. Graduating students received their diploma and special comp lit graduation souvenir packages from prof. Parker, as well as rounds of warm applause, toasts and best wishes from all that were present to share this unforgettable moment.

The year 2016 is not only marked by the 250th anniversary of the university, but also by major changes in comp lit. For the department will have to say goodbye to both the pleasant old house at 195 College Ave. and our retiring beloved faculty and friend Marilyn Tankiewicz, who has been working at comp lit for more than 10 years and has won the heart of all who have studied and worked here. We will remember all the happy hours spent at comp lit this past year, and we look forward to much more to come in the future.

 

Grad Student Potluck: Enmanuel Martínez

By: Annabel We

Every year, ABD students in the program present a working draft chapter of their dissertation to the faculty and their graduate colleagues over food, potluck style.

Enmanuel Martínez (En. Mar.) is a fifth year Ph.D. candidate working on archive theory, Caribbean and diasporic studies, decolonial thought, and queer theory. The title for his dissertation is “The Archipelago and the Archive: Reading Local Archival Practices and Mediums in Insular and Continental Caribbean Literatures.” A 2012 Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellow and a 2015-2016 graduate fellow in the “Archipelagoes” seminar of the Rutgers Center for Cultural Analysis (CCA), En. Mar. also served as the co-organizer of our Program’s spring 2014 biannual graduate student conference.

En. Mar. began his presentation with a genealogical and etymological framework and proposed that we think ‘arche-’ and ‘archons’ of archive and archipelago together. Then En. Mar. mapped the topics of each of his dissertation chapters for us, which include soundbites and diasporic poetry, competing archival sovereignty between the U.S. and the Caribbean, and the specificity of climatic and ecological constructs of the archive in the Caribbean exemplified by the archival ‘mold’ (life) as opposed to ‘dust’ (death).

The chosen chapter of the presentation was “Of Cassette Tape “Letters” and Basement Refrigerators: Housing the Archive of the Caribbean Diaspora,” a project that takes hold of existing debates in archive theory and various thinkers of geographic, transnational, and historical ‘theory,’ including Trouillot, D. Taylor, Hall, Y. Bonilla, Said, and Muñoz. En. Mar.’s reading examined the cassette tape ‘letters’ in Schwarz-Bart’s play Your Handsome Captain (1987) and the refrigerators in Junot Díaz’s novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) to ask what such archives, of the diaspora from the below, might entail for not only archive theory but also for the diasporic constituency.

En. Mar. focused on mobility, domestic archive, creolization of the archival medium, orality, and ephemera/ the ephemeral. Preliminary conclusions that he shared with us suggested: 1) rethinking the archive as mobile, mirroring diasporic migration and 2) theorizing the non-sovereign archives of the Caribbean that are neither within nor outside the nation.

A lively conversation ensued that returned to the question of domesticity and the archive, on top of various other archives recommended to En. Mar. for his consideration.

Symposium: Africa, Europe, and the Mediterranean Migration Crisis

By: Gabriele Lazzari

On Friday, October 16, Rutgers University hosted a one-day symposium focused on the current migration crisis in the Mediterranean. Sponsored by several departments and programs in the School of Arts and Sciences, the symposium brought together scholars, activists, journalists, and visual artists from several institutions and locales in order to address an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, in which millions of people, mainly from Africa and the Middle East, are fleeing from political oppression, civil war, and economic depression. In trying to understand the complexity of this crisis, despite the reduction of media representation, the speakers engaged with political, historical and epistemological implications, which expose, with tragic clarity, unresolved questions related to colonialism, neoimperialism and European identity.

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Cristina Lombardi-Diop discusses the crisis from the perspective of “Italy’s southern front”

The first session, titled “Histories, Causes, and Contexts of the Current Crisis,” addressed the genealogy of the crisis and its current implications. Cristina Lombardi-Diop (Loyola University) focused on the notion of the border and on its shift from a mere geographical category to a locus of epistemological and spiritual negotiations in the experience of African migrants. Ousseina Alidou (Rutgers University) stressed the importance of global and local networks of solidarity to oppose the structural violence to which African youth is continuously subjected. Amadou Kane-Sy (artist and activist) discussed how, through his art, he tries to rearticulates geopolitics of knowledge, and to denounce neoliberal policies in countries such as Senegal and Congo. Kassahun Checole (publisher of African World Press Inc.) placed his own migrating experience within the broader history of Eritrea, a country that, despite its relative smallness, thousands of people leave every day to escape from a brutal military regime.

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R. Daniel Kelemen explains the current policies of the European Union

The second session, titled “Contemporary Trajectories,” was introduced by Rhiannon Noel Welch (Rutgers, Italian Department), the main organizer of the symposium. The first speaker was Cristina Giordano (UC Davis), who explained how ethno-psychiatry can help us illuminate the incompatibility between the temporality of trauma experienced by migrants and the temporality of the state and of biomedical categories. Harouna Muonkaila (Abdou Mounouni University, Republic of Niger) focused on the trans-Saharan routes, stressing how the externalization of European migration policies in central Africa is reinforcing inequalities, exploitation, and illegal smuggling of migrants. Jean-Baptiste Sorou (Gregorian University of Rome and University of Tanzania) retraced the history of decolonization in the African continent and maintained that only education and cultural projects (in which he himself is involved) can guarantee a future for Africans in Africa. R. Daniel Kelemen (Rutgers University) discussed how the European Union is (mis)managing the crisis and explained how the current policies the EU is trying to enforce are a response to a structurally unsustainable situation. Ayten Gündoğu (Columbia University), drawing on Hanna Arendt’s notion of “stateliness,” proposed that the current crisis, by exposing the borders of humanity, has shattered the façade of the European project and has revealed its true politics of “expulsion from humanity.”

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The artist Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen presents his project “End of Dreams”

An art exhibition and a discussion with two visual artists concluded the symposium. The participants had the opportunity to see the works of Amadou Kane-Sy and Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen, whose art addresses the affective consequences of migration through photography, video production and installations.

Film Series: Screening of Ousmane Sembène’s Black Girl

By: Melina Gills

On October 8, a group of undergraduate and graduate students, from fields as diverse as Engineering and Women and Gender Studies, gathered in Tillett Hall to watch the 1966 Senegalese film widely considered to have ushered in “African cinema.” Forty-nine years later, with a restoration that screened at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Black Girl (La noire de…), directed by world-celebrated filmmaker Ousmane Sembène, has lost none of its emotional punch and political power. In the midst of enjoying the pizza generously funded by the GSA, we were quietly enraptured by Sembène’s rhythms, images, and thought-provoking juxtapositions.

With the haunting image of a mask that travels from Senegal to France, back to Senegal again, Sembène paints a vivid world of loneliness, suffering, and the bonds between living and dead that ultimately stand as an unscathed form of resistance to the oppressive forces that will be undone by their own inhumanity. The final breaking of the fourth wall epitomizes Black Girl’s challenge to any spectatorial detachment, emphasizing the need for communal viewing and debate. After the screening, we eagerly discussed the film, especially marveling at its still very relevant portrayal of a woman’s experience in a country from which she is barred as an equal, welcomed only as cheap or free labor, an advanced form of slavery.

What changes between colonialism and its supposed “post” era? This is one such question rigorously addressed by the film and one that will be raised at the Comparative Literature department’s upcoming annual graduate conference, which will explore “decolonial thought.” This semester, the screenings of the Comparative Literature Film Series, of which that of Black Girl was the first, anticipate the central ideas and concerns to be discussed at the conference. Future films include Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2011, Thailand) and a still undecided film.