31 January 2012

Three women's texts!

Please join us for the second Epiphany Term seminar in the series:

De-labelling the Writer, Rescuing the Poet: Jeanette Winterson’s Creation of Virginia Woolf
Agata Wozniak, Durham
Cosmopolitan Ethic in Shamsie’s Burnt “Shadows”
Jahnavi Misra, Durham

8th February 2012
5:00 – 6:30 pm
Department of English Studies, Hallgarth House Seminar Room



De-labelling the Writer, Rescuing the Poet: Jeanette Winterson’s Creation of Virginia Woolf

In the 1980s, literary critics undertook the task of rescuing Virginia Woolf for feminism. Since then there has been an enormous expansion of Woolf’s popularity and status, exemplified not only in the critical rediscovery of Woolf’s writing, but also in the Woolfian ‘renaissance’ of contemporary literature and culture.

One of the artists forming part of this revival is Woolf’s self-proclaimed literary heiress – Jeanette Winterson. Placing Harold Bloom’s agonistic vision of influence against the more object relational tradition of ‘thinking back through our mothers’, this paper will seek to define the motives and mechanisms at work in Winterson’s intertextual relationship with the author of Orlando. Questions of influence and homage also raise spectres of narcissism. In this light, we might re-examine Winterson’s contribution to the creation of ‘Virginia Woolf’ in the context of contemporary literary culture.

The paper will argue that, as a fierce enemy of labelling creative effort, Winterson is one of the few artists who have managed to avoid the tendency to label Woolf as either feminist, lesbian or mad, severely curtailing the scope of her creative influence. The young writer has rather rescued Woolf for posterity as a poet and a prophet of contemporary culture. Through her fiction as well as her essays, Winterson has brought Woolf up to date and established her as a prophet of a creatively cross-gendered culture. It is primarily in this sense that the author of The Passion is a true heiress of the Bloomsbury author.

                      Cosmopolitan Ethic in Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows
In this paper, I will examine Kamila Shamsie’s novel Burnt Shadows (2009). Shamsie’s text spans across three generations and five countries. A Japanese woman journeys to India in the last days of the British raj after the atomic bombing of her city, Nagasaki, on August 9, 1945. She goes on to live a majority of her life in Pakistan with her Indian/Pakistani husband. Finally, she settles in the United States, where she witnesses the fall of the World Trade Centres.  
I will examine the global scope of Shamsie’s text, demonstrating how it avoids the Western-centrism attributed to most transnational writings. With the help of the text, I will also endeavour to defend cosmopolitanism from the charge of any kind of elitism, by demonstrating how the cosmopolitan is in fact directly connected to the marginal, inasmuch as a politically disadvantaged person will automatically be more accepting of other cultures and world views.  
Debates surrounding the ethics of care proposed by Carol Gilligan in In a Different Voice (1982) will provide an entry point for the discussion. My attempt will be to extend this ethic, developed out of feminine marginality in conventional morality and thereby politics, beyond white, western women to other kinds of marginalised peoples. The argument in this paper is that the more cosmopolitan characters in Shamsie’s text share a feminine sensibility; thereby connecting the notion of cosmopolitanism to an inclusive understanding of the feminine, for the articulation of a more inclusive ethics of care.

Forthcoming seminars in the series:
22 February: David Varley (Durham University)
13 March:  Professor Laura Marcus (University of Oxford)
26 April: Dr Peter Howarth (Queen Mary, University of London)        
9 May: Professor Rachel Bowlby (UCL)
23 May: John Clegg (Durham University) and Kaja Marczewska (Durham University)
6 June: Dr Sarah Wasson (Edinburgh Napier University)

For more information, find us on facebook, follow us on Twitter (@inventionsSem) or check our blog: inventionsofthetext.blogspot.com
To contribute a paper, please email: inventionsofthetext@gmail.com

No comments: