We hope you can join us for the last "The Uses of Literature" session of this term, where we'll be joined by Victor Sage, Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of East Anglia (and graduate of Durham University!), for a very special off-schedule seminar. Professor Sage's paper, about two of the most exciting and innovative novelists currently working in British contemporary fiction, will be followed by open forum discussion and a trip to the pub.
Two Uses of the Encyclopaedia: Narrative and the Archive in Tom McCarthy’s C and Nicola Barker’s Darkmans.
Victor Sage, Emeritus Professor of English Literature (Department of Literature and Creative Writing, University of East Anglia)
6.30pm, Thursday 17th March 2011
Hallgarth House Seminar Room, Hallgarth Street, Durham
Encyclopaedism in fiction can be defined (crudely) as an assimilation of prose narrative to the Archive, and in particular to the concept of infinity, the infinity of Knowledge, the ideal form of which is the list. Knowledge as a journey off the map of whatever conscious or unconscious provincialism we happen to inhabit. The moods and effects of this writerly manoeuvre are many and various; in the case of the novel, Bakhtin has helped us begin to chart its long prehistory of subversion before we get to the lists of Rabelais. He showed us two things: that this assimilation of narrative to the conceptually open form of the quantitative is not just a Modern (let alone a Modernist) tradition. And he also showed that it is not just a high, intellectual tradition, but a popular comic tradition too. The effects of this writerly manoeuvre are various. This talk considers two recent examples of the assimilation of narrative to infinity in Tom McCarthy’s C, and Nicola Barker’s Darkmans, which gives an occasion to reflect on the tension between the high cultural and popular traditions in contemporary fiction.
Victor Sage is an Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of East Anglia. A graduate of the University of Durham, he is the author of three books of fiction. He has also written on the the novel in the 19th and 20th century Gothic tradition: on Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelley, Dickens, Beckett, Katherine Mansfield, John McGahern, J.G.Ballard, and, recently, Kazuo Ishiguro. His most recent monograph is Le Fanu’s Gothic: the Rhetoric of Darkness (2004). He is the editor for Penguin Classics of Charles Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer and J.Sheridan Le Fanu’s Uncle Silas. He is currently working on A Cultural History of European Gothic for Polity Press.