The 2019 George Steiner Lecture in Comparative Literature

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7 March 2019

Time: 6:30 - 8:00pm
Speaker: Professor Rebecca L. Walkowitz (Rutgers University)
Venue: Arts One Lecture Theatre, Arts One Building (Mile End Campus), Queen Mary University of London, London, E1 4NS

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The Department of Comparative Literature in the School of Languages, Linguistics and Film has the pleasure in inviting you to the 2019 George Steiner Lecture in Comparative Literature on 7 March, 6.30 p.m., Arts One Lecture Theatre, Mile End Campus, QMUL (to be followed by a drinks reception)

Professor Rebecca L. Walkowitz (Rutgers University)

"On Not Knowing: Lahiri, Tawada, Ishiguro."


In this lecture, Walkowitz shows how new works of world literature are testing and altering what it means to “know” a language and what it means to write in a single or distinct language at all. "On Not Knowing" tracks the emergence of authors who are choosing to write in second or third languages “ignorantly,” non-fluently, or imperfectly. Walkowitz argues that writers such as Jhumpa Lahiri, Yoko Tawada, and Kazuo Ishiguro are breaking with generations of postcolonial and migrant writers who called for expanding and mastering dominant languages. Instead, Lahiri and others write imperfectly and inexpressively on purpose, creating works that resist the monolingual containers of literary history and point towards new models of multilingualism, and even postlingualism. In an era of global languages, these writers suggest, literary cosmopolitanism requires new strategies of provincialism.


Rebecca L. Walkowitz is Professor and Chair in the English Department and Affiliate Faculty in Comparative Literature at Rutgers University. She is the author of Cosmopolitan Style: Modernism Beyond the Nation(2006) and Born Translated: The Contemporary Novel in an Age of World Literature(2015), which received an Honorable Mention for the first annual Matei Calinescu Prizefrom the MLA and has been translated or is forthcoming in Danish, Polish, Hungarian, and Japanese. She is also the editor or coeditor of 8 books, including A New Vocabulary for Global Modernism(2016). Professor Walkowitz is coeditor and co-founder of the book series “Literature Now” and has served on the executive committees of the American Comparative Literature Association, the Society for Novel Studies, and the Modernist Studies Association, for which she served as President in 2014-15. She has served as Wolfgang Iser Lecturer at the University of Konstanz, Visiting Hurst Professor at Washington University in St. Louis, and she will return as a faculty member for the Institute for World Literature in July 2019. Her current book project, “Future Reading,” focuses on the concept of the anglophone and the representation of world languages in contemporary writing. Her web site is here.