Frame Frame

Luc Rasson | Engagement als (zelf)onthulling: over Jonathan Littels Les Bienveillantes

20.1 Engagement
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Abstract How does commitment work in a novel whose narrator upholds political views and ethical standards that are unacceptable to the common reader? In Jonathan Littel’s Les Bienveillantes the former SS officer who tells the story of his participation in the Final Solution is unable to preserve the coherence of his own point of view. He becomes entangled in a web of contradictions that delegitimize his discourse. Moreover, the peculiar insight the narrator gains after his headwound at Stalingrad, allows him to see the truth of the national-socialist ideology, namely its inability to acknowledge the presence of the other in the self. This device of the narrator speaking unwillingly against himself can be considered a form of “paradoxical commitment”. Full...

Anouk van der Pluijm | Hedendaags Engagement. Grote Ideeën in het Klein

20.1 Engagement
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Abstract Het engagement is terug in de literatuur. Daarmee is het slechts enkele decennia afwezig geweest in de dominante theorieën over literatuur en vele literaire werken die in deze periode als belangrijk zijn bestempeld. Ook Hans van Stralen, literatuurwetenschapper in Utrecht en Amsterdam, herkent deze terugkeer wanneer hij zegt dat: “ greater interest in ethics becomes perceptible in Western culture. Thus Nussbaum points out the desirability of including literary works in the philosophical-ethical reflection and Vintges even devotes a book to the return of engagement in present-day society.” De stijgende lijn is vanaf ongeveer 1990 met name te zien geweest in het postkolonialisme, toen Orientalism (1980) van Edward Saïd een solide plek in de filosofie en literatuurwetenschap veroverd had en werken als The Empire Writes Back (1989) van Bill Ashcroft Saïds boek als basis gingen gebruiken. Na 2000 lijkt de terugkeer van het engagement steeds beter zichtbaar te worden, ook binnen de populaire cultuur. Sindsdien zijn er, uiteraard, ook tal van katalysatoren buiten de literatuur zelf geweest die de terugkeer van het engagement versneld hebben. Daarvan is de belangrijkste ongetwijfeld de actuele wereldpolitieke situatie na de moslimextremistische aanslagen. Toch is het interessant na te gaan hoe de reeds opkomende literaire betrokkenheid en de theorievorming daarover in de jaren negentig zeggenschap hebben voor...

Marrigje Paijmans | De zelfkant van de ander

20.1 Engagement
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Abstract It is a well known fact that Michel Foucault around 1970, quite instantly, lost all interest in modern literature. Although his work from 1976 on shows a regain of his fascination for literary text, his attention had shifted towards texts from antiquity and the early middle ages. In theatre plays by Euripides, rhetoric lectures concerning parrhèsia (truth speech), and confessions of church fathers, Foucault searches for an alternative to literary transgression after the ‘death of the author’. He believes that new engagement consists of a ‘working on the limits from inside out’. This implies a repositioning of the modern subject in the centre of the text, similar to the antique ‘self’, before it was split up in an object and a subject. Reminiscent of Greek ethics, Foucault stresses the importance of taking proper care for our selves before we address the other and the world. Correspondingly, only texts with a personal identity will eventually exercise a ‘speech activity’ on the lingual reality of the power discourse. This lingual confrontation between the self and the discourse always involves social and political engagement; however it will be of a very specific and local character. Full...

Emily Miles | Redrawing the Lines Foreclosure: The Possibilities Presented by a Bakhtinian Outlook on the Novel

20.1 Engagement
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Abstract What if censorship begins before we even start speaking? In “Ruled Out: Vocabularies of the Censor”, Judith Butler provides sufficient evidence of this oft-overlooked possibility, assigning this form of pre-censorship with a recycled term: foreclosure. While many other scholars limit their focus to how censorship is enacted after a text is produced, Butler uses foreclosure to outline the active life of censorship as it manifests itself while thoughts and speech are being formulated. In many ways, Butler’s notion of the formation of speech is reminiscent of Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of heteroglossia. Both scholars have posited that our speech is never fully our own, though their theories have grown from this base in two very different directions. For Butler, the outcome of this lack of ownership is very negative and often results in a need to redraw the lines of what is and is not considered acceptable speech. Bakhtin, however, sees heteroglossia as a positive aspect of language, especially as it is dialogized in the novel. In this essay, I will explore the ways in which Butler’s foreclosure and Bakhtin’s heteroglossia intersect in order to determine the extent to which Butler’s theory is reliant on and can benefit from Bakhtin’s original theory of heteroglossia. I will also determine whether the novel, Bakhtin’s stage for dialogizing heteroglossia, may function as a platform for undermining foreclosure. In order to do this, I will first establish a theoretical base and then examine dialogized heteroglossia and foreclosure in the case of Elif Shafak’s 2006...

Casey Haskins | Literature, Autonomy, and the Complexity of Aesthetics

20.1 Engagement
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Abstract In this article Haskins addresses what he calls the autonomy problem in aesthetic theory. The controversy here is, firstly, whether a work of art derives its value from its being art as such or from its instrumental (for example moral) efficacy and, secondly, whether the causes for its existence are autonomistic or heteronomistic. Haskins analyzes (the backgrounds of) the dialectically structured modernist form of this debate and its ramifications for academic politics – the dialectic between “traditional humanistic approaches” and “Theory”. He then goes on to show that the issue at hand is insoluble in its traditional form and thus stands in need of a redescription. After discussing Adorno, Foucault and Derrida in this light, he concludes with an account of the potential of complexity theory in the course of reformulating our ideas of the connection between art and the world. Full...

Charles Altieri | Why “Appreciation” Ought be Revived as a Model for the Study of the Arts

20.1 Engagement
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Abstract Having heard all too often the importance of literary education for developing various cognitive skills in relation to cultural contexts, the author proposes the possibility of resurrecting the concept of appreciation as a focus for talking about the values education can pursue through the arts. Appreciation is the study of performances – in life and in art –- that demonstrate particular skills and the differences they can make if we allow them to serve as examples of what is possible in experience. So appreciation differs from cognition in the emphasis on manner of expression, on the object as not an independent object of knowledge but exemplified features of how we sort the world, on the importance of expertise for making the appropriate distinctions, and on the mode of judgment by which we distinguish purposive experience from experience subsumed under purposes. But appreciation does not separate art from life; instead it calls attention to intensities in our experiences of the world that cognitive languages have trouble registering. Full...