03 June 2013

Public Lecture by Prof. Marc Caplan, Johns Hopkins University, USA.


Education and Initiation in the Novels of the Yiddish Haskole (Enlightenment) and Islamic Negritude

Speaker: Marc Caplan; Zelda and Myer Tandetnik Professor of Yiddish Literature, Language, and Culture; Department of German and Romance Languages; Johns Hopkins University, USA.

Bio: Marc Caplan is a native of Louisiana and a graduate of Yale University. In 2003 he completed a PhD in comparative literature at New York University, submitting a dissertation comparing the origins of modern narrative forms in 19th century Yiddish and post-colonial African literature. Thereafter he held visiting positions at Indiana University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard University, before joining the faculty at the Johns Hopkins University as the first recipient of the Zelda and Myer Tandetnik Professorship in Yiddish Literature, Language, and Culture in 2006. In 2011 he published How Strange the Change: Language, Temporality, and Narrative Form in Peripheral Modernisms with Stanford University Press. Currently he is at work on a book project comparing Yiddish modernism in Weimar Berlin with contemporaneous trends in German critical theory, literature, and popular culture, focusing primarily on theories of language and allegory proposed by Walter Benjamin.

Abstract: This lecture will examine the literatures of ostensibly marginal modern cultures as a conceptual and historical key to understanding aesthetic modernism. Professor Caplan will compare nineteenth-century Yiddish literature and twentiethcentury Francophone African literature, finding unexpected similarities between them. These literatures were created under imperial regimes that brought with them processes of modernization that were already well advanced elsewhere. Yiddish and African writers reacted to the liberating potential of modernity and the burdens of imperial authority by choosing similar narrative genres, typically reminiscent of early-modern European literatures: the picaresque, the pseudo-autobiography, satire, and the Bildungsroman. Both display analogous anxieties toward language, caught as they were between imperial, "global" languages and stigmatized native vernaculars, and between traditions of writing and orality. Professor Caplan will demonstrate that these literatures' "belated" relationship to modernization suggests their potential to anticipate subsequent crises in the modernity and post-modernity of metropolitan cultures. The conflicts between tradition and modernity—expressed in both contexts as a competition between initiation and education of young people—results in a literature that provides a critique of modernity even at the outset of the modernization process.               

Date      Wednesday 12th June 2013        
Time      5:30 until 7:00pm             
Venue    Bank West Lecture Theatre in building 200A, Curtin University, Kent Street, Bentley 
RSVP     To HUM-ResearchEvents@curtin.edu.au by 7th June 2013          
Catering               Food and Drinks will be provided             
Parking                 Visitor parking is available in car park D3