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Announcement: Three Books Reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement

October 18th, 2014

Humanities Administrator

Three books with English Department ties have recently been reviewed in the prestigious Times Literary Supplement (TLS).

Prof. Ramie Targoff’s Posthumous Love (University of Chicago Press) is reviewed in the October 3 edition. Targoff’s book shows that Renaissance England love poetry, with its emphasis on the finality of death, was a stark contrast to the Italian poetry tradition where love transcends the grave. In her review, Alana Shilling-Janoff highlights that “Targoff convincingly argues that he (Wyatt) inspired a new poetic predicated on the knowledge of love’s inevitable end.” Shilling-Janoff notes that Targoff’s work “makes of us new readers of old favourites” such as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

A review of Holly Jackson’s (Ph.D. 2008) American Blood (Oxford University Press) can be found in the May 23 edition. Jackson’s book explores the more dubious aspects of family in nineteenth-century American literature. Tom Wright points out in his review that “(i)n a series of new readings of canonical and lesser-known works, Jackson sketches a new anti-familial literary history.” He believes American Blood “will help encourage cultural historians and literary critics to ask new questions about the ‘new footings’ of the novel, the family and the powerful cultures of sentimentalism that bound the two together during this period.”

Imperial Media (Ohio State University Press) by Aaron Worth (Ph.D. 2004) is reviewed in the September 10 edition. His book reveals how the technology of the time promoted British imperialism. In her review, Mary Shannon argues that “(b)ecause we are still very much living in the information age . . . we should perhaps take note of how the texts analysed by Worth find in information systems a source of both promise and threat, triumph and dismay.”

These three books highlight the historical and geographic range of work of our scholars, the originality of their ideas, and prominence of the scholarship coming from the Brandeis English Department.

Content written by Lisa Pannella

Upcoming Event: Poetry Reading With Vera Pavlova

October 7th, 2014

Humanities Administrator

Poetry Reading with Vera Pavlova
Tuesday, October 21, 4:00 – 5:30 p.m.
Mandel Reading Room (Mandel Center for the Humanities, Room 303)

Vera Pavlova is a contemporary Russian poet who has published fourteen collections of poetry, four opera librettos, and lyrics to two cantatas. Her works have been translated into eighteen languages, including English.

During this interactive reading, each member of the audience will receive cards with Vera’s poems written in Russian and English. The owner of the card will be asked to read the English translation out loud while Vera will read the Russian original. A question-and-answer session will follow the readings. Light refreshments will be served.

For more information about Vera Pavlova, visit verapavlova.us.

This event is sponsored by Brandeis’ Russian Studies Program.

Upcoming Event: Playing It Again: Trauma and Please in Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Act of Killing”

October 7th, 2014

Humanities Administrator

Playing It Again

Click on poster to enlarge.

Upcoming Event: Confronting the Reality: Sexual Violence on College Campuses

October 2nd, 2014

Humanities Administrator

Sexual Violence

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Upcoming Event: Reading By Marilyn Hacker and Deema K. Shehabi

September 29th, 2014

Humanities Administrator

hackershehabi

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Upcoming Event: Wurthering Heights, the Revenge Novel

September 22nd, 2014

Humanities Administrator

Please join us for “Wuthering Heights, The Revenge Novel,” a presentation by UC Berkeley’s Catherine Gallagher on Thursday, October 2nd at 5:00pm in the Mandel Reading Room. Please contact chaucer@brandeis.edu with any questions. We hope to see you there!Catherine Gallagher Lecture

Upcoming Events: Master of Arts Program in Comparative Humanities (MACH) Information Session

September 18th, 2014

Humanities Administrator

Please join us at the Master of Arts Program in Comparative Humanities Information Session to learn more about the MACH program, including the new BA/MA track for Brandeis undergraduates. Faculty and Admissions representatives will be available to share information and answer questions about the program curriculum, milestones, and application process.

The session will take place on Tuesday, September 30, from 4-5 p.m. in the Mandel Reading Room (Mandel Center for the Humanities, Room 303). Light refreshments will be served. All students are encouraged to attend.

Please contact Alyssa Fabrizio, MACH Program Administrator, at afabrizio@brandeis.edu with any questions.

Upcoming Event: Transparency, Expression, and Self-Knowledge

September 16th, 2014

Humanities Administrator

The Philosophy Department is kicking off its 2014-2015 Colloquium Series on September 19th with Dorit Bar-On from the University of Connecticut who will be speaking on: Transparency, Expression and Self-Knowledge at 3:30pm in Rabb 338 (The Danielsen Room).

Contact Julie Seeger (jseeger@brandeis.edu) with any questions about the event.

Upcoming Event: Ballads, Nations, and Histories of Form

September 11th, 2014

Humanities Administrator

Please join us for “Ballads, Nations, and Histories of Form,” a lecture by Professor Meredith Martin of Princeton University. This event will be held on Thursday, September 18th at 12:00pm in Rabb 119 (the DuBois Lounge.)

Lunch will be provided. We hope to see you there!

Meredith Martin flyer final distrib

Interview With Ryskamp Award Winner Ulka Anjaria

May 9th, 2014

Humanities Administrator

Ulka Anjaria is Assistant Professor of English at Brandeis University. She received her doctorate in literature from Stanford University. Her first book, Realism in the Twentieth-Century Indian Novel: Colonial Difference and Literary Form (2012), explored Indian fiction in the 20th century. She is currently working on a new book project exploring contemporary South Asian literature and popular culture. 

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Division of the Humanities: Tell me a little bit about your latest project.

Ulka Anjaria: My latest project examines contemporary literature, primarily novels, in India. I am particularly interested in the relationship between literature and politics in contemporary India. For most of the 20th century if you were a writer you were also a political leftist. Whether you were a Gandhian, a Nehruvian or an all-out socialist, you tended to be on the political left.

Recently, disenchantment with the nationalist movement has changed the relationship between literature and politics. For the last several decades Indian novelists tended to refuse political engagement altogether. But today we are seeing an emergence of literary figures supporting more right wing politics. These authors tend to write popular books as opposed to ‘high’ literature. Authors like Chetan Bhagat have large readerships and appeal to many young Indians. I am interested in this emergent literature and how it both shapes and is shaped by new trends in Indian politics.

DH: What made you decide to pursue such a project?

UA: I was looking for a new direction, while building on my previous book – Realism in the Twentieth Century Indian Novel: Colonial Difference and Literary Form (2012) – which dealt with the relationship between literature and politics in early 20th century India. My fundamental interest was and continues to be in the relationship between text and the world. But for this project I wanted to do something more contemporary that spoke to ongoing literary trends and political developments.

DH: What has motivated this shift to a right wing literature? Is there an international element?

UA: Indian literature has had a broad international following since the late 20th century – really since the 1981 publication of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. Writers such as Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh, Rohinton Mistry and others have lived outside India. What we have seen recently, however, is more English-language authors who are choosing to live in India. Because of the expansion of the English-language reading public in India over the last several decades, it is now entirely possible to write English novels solely for an Indian audience. So some of the cosmopolitan visions of authors such as Rushdie and Ghosh have been replaced with more local or national concerns. Someone like Chetan Bhagat is a hugely bestselling author in India, but is virtually unheard of abroad. So his sense of the role of literature in the world is very different from the earlier generation. His vision of politics is conditioned by local and national discourses of India’s futurity – which in this current election, has led him to come out in support of the right-wing candidate. It’s not right wing literature per se as much as it is a sort of new provincialism of the Indian novel – a trend I’m interested in knowing more about.

DH: Does language or area play a bigger role in shaping Indian fiction? Is Indian fiction popular in other parts of Asia like China and Japan, which are not English-speaking?

UA: In the 20th century, English was more important for connecting authors and audiences than geography. This is something that some Indian intellectuals tried to change; Bengali writer and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore travelled to Japan in 1916, trying to formulate an alternative cosmopolitanism that was not reliant on Britain as the center of modernity. Several Bengali artists found influence from East Asian art in this period as well. Of course more recently, India and China fought a war with one another. But new global discourses of “emerging economies” have ended up linking India and China once again. Although today there is not much dialogue in literary spheres between the two countries, it is possible new links might be formed in the near future.

DH: Must be challenging to keep up with all the new literature?

UA: It is challenging. Between new novels and new films it’s a struggle to keep up! But it’s the consistent deluge of new material that makes the subject interesting. There’s always something new to think about.

DH: Your research has earned you the prestigious Charles Ryskamp Research Fellowship. What does the honor mean to you?

UA: It’s of course a great honor to be awarded the fellowship. But from a practical standpoint, the Fellowship will make it possible to spend a year in India researching this book. When looking at contemporary Indian literature it’s essential to be in the country as often as possible, since there is such a vibrant public sphere in which writers, journalists, and intellectuals are constantly debating issues of politics and literature, the role of the writer/ artist, etc. I manage to go to India once a year, but there’s nothing like an extended stay to be truly immersed in these conversations.

I am also hoping that spending additional time in India will give me the opportunity to research popular Hindi fiction, which is also growing, inspired by the success of writers such as Bhagat. These books will likely never be translated, but are necessary to understanding the growth of popular fiction. English is increasingly popular, but there are whole other sectors of the population who read in Hindi, so a study of only English-language literature has its limitations. Being in India will allow me to look at this literature and assess how and where it fits into my larger project.

DH: What is your favorite course to teach at Brandeis? Why?

UA: I teach a course on Hindi film that I love. It tends to be a large course and the students have a wide range of experience with Indian film. Some have never seen a Bollywood film before, while others consider themselves experts on the genre. Regardless of their preexisting knowledge of Indian film, students have a great time in the course and many of those with little prior knowledge become diehard Bollywood fans by the end of the course!

I also enjoy teaching my course on the novel in India. It’s the main topic of my research and it’s always great exposing students to a topic close to my heart.

DH: Do you have any ideas for courses you may want to offer in the future?

UA: I’m always thinking of new courses. One idea I have recently been thinking about is a course on globalization and new media in India and Pakistan. This course would be focused on post-2000 texts and would examine literature alongside blogs and other new media. My hope is to shed light on South Asia’s vibrant public spheres. I think the vibrancy of Pakistani literary culture is particularly neglected, as it is overshadowed by all the bad news constantly coming from the country. The Lahore Literary Festival, for example, which just took place a few months back, is the kind of flourishing artistic scene that characterizes contemporary Pakistan. Unfortunately it gets little coverage in mainstream media.

DH: Are there any exceptional works of fiction you would recommend to someone interested in contemporary India, but without background in the subject?

UA:One book which has received a lot of attention in the United States is Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger. It’s a witty, dark novel that touches on many of the dominant themes in contemporary Indian fiction.

I also always recommend Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, which is a classic of Indian fiction.

Those interested in what young Indians are reading today should check out Chetan Bhagat’s One Night @ the Call Center, which takes place among a group of friends working at a call center outside of Delhi. A new writer of female-centered novels (sometimes called “chick lit”) is Anuja Chauhan – again, very popular, bestselling novels about romance, family, and work, but she is unknown outside of India.

Thanks Professor Anjaria!

 

Interview conducted by Matthew Linton on May 2, 2014.

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