This year the Department of Comparative Literature and Culture welcomed Professor Rebecca L. Walkowitz (Rutgers University) for the George Steiner Lecture.
In this lecture, Walkowitz discussed 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.