Fugitive/Narrative: Unhomed Texts, Human Rights, and the Broken Road

Friday, 2 February, 2018 - 12:30

WiSER invites you to a lunchtime seminar by

Stephen Clingman

Fugitive/Narrative: Unhomed Texts, Human Rights, and the Broken Road

What are the topologies of fugitive/narrative? This paper follows earlier thinkers such as Lukács, Adorno, Auerbach and Said in exploring some of the contours in our current period. Lukács and Adorno reflected on the dialectic of home and the unhomed; Auerbach experienced it; and Said set out some of the key considerations of the territory in his reflections on exile. Our period may be characterized by massive movements of refugees, the causes of which include war, politics, economic disparities and climate change. Yet, while very little can do justice to the enormity of the refugee experience, fugitive/narrative, as set out here, is not coterminous with that; nor is it coterminous with Said’s other categories of the exile, the emigré or the expatriate. What characterizes it is the subject of the starting points enumerated in this paper. Fugitive/narrative partly involves questions of topic; partly questions of form; and often some combination of these, so that the narrative itself may be thought of as fugitive. Fugitive/narrative goes back to founding texts in various traditions, and impinges also on discussions of human rights. Yet where the latter are sometimes formulated by way of homology between the literary and the juridical, sometimes through models of the state of exception or the nomadic, notions of the fugitive/narrative formulate the issue differently, which I attempt to set out here. The paper ends with considerations of the work of contemporary writers, both metropolitan and in the southern African context.

Thursday, 1st February 2018

WiSER Seminar Room,
6th Floor, Richard Ward Building,
East Campus, Wits University

Stephen Clingman is Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is the author of many acclaimed books, including, The Novels Of Nadine Gordimer: History From The Inside (still called, on the Nobel Prize website, the ‘best study’ on the subject), The Essential Gesture: Writing, Politics And Place (editor), and Bram Fischer: Afrikaner Revolutionary (winner of the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award). Recent articles have included ‘Writing the Biofictive’, ‘Gordimer’s Pathologies’, ‘Rights, Routes and Refugees: The Fiction of Caryl Phillips’, and ‘The Nature of Empathy: An Interview with Caryl Phillips’.

All welcome.