Author: Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Publisher: Seagull Books
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8170462592
For almost three decades, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, has been ignoring the standardized rules of the academy and trespassing across disciplinary boundaries. Today she remains one of the foremost figures in the study of world literature and its cultural consequences. In this new book she declares the death of comparative literature as we know it and sounds an urgent call for a new comparative literature in which the discipline is given new life-one that is not appropriated and determined by the market.
In the era of globalization, when mammoth projects of world literature in translation are being undertaken in the United States, how can we protect the multiplicity of languages and literatures at the university? Spivak demonstrates how critics interested in social justice should pay close attention to literary form and offers new interpretations of classics such as Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. Through close readings of texts not only in English, French, and German but also in Arabic and Bengali, Spivak practices what she preaches.
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s Death of a Discipline does not tell us that Comparative Literature is at an end. On the contrary, it charts a demanding and urgent future for the field, laying out the importance of the encounter with area studies and offering a radically ethical framework for the approach to subaltern writing. Spivak deftly opposes the migrant intellectual approach to the study of alterity. In its place, she insists upon a practice of cultural translation that resists the appropriation by dominant power and engages in the specificity of writing within subaltern sites in the idiomatic and vexed relation to the effacements of cultural era-sure and cultural appropriation. She asks those who dwell within the dominant episteme to imagine how we are imagined by those for whom literacy remains the primary demand. And she maps a new way of reading not only the future of literary studies but its past as well. This text is disorienting and reconstellating, dynamic, lucid, and brilliant in its scope and vision. Rarely has death offered such inspiration.
-Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot
Professor Rhetoric and Comparative Literature
Death of Discipline is not a lament but a promise. Professor Spivak invites us to imagine an inclusive Comparative Literature freed form its traditional national anchoring, a border-crossing discipline honed by careful reading that encourages linguistic competence and includes the languages of the Southern Hemisphere as active cultural media. This is a visionary work that not only charts the possibility of reformed discipline that opens itself to learning from many quarters but also identifies emergent collectivities.
Professor Emerita of English and Comparative Literature
In this remarkable series of lectures Gayatri Spivak outlines the genealogy of Comparative Literature as a discipline, its successive intellectual affiliations, and the potentialities that an association with area and cultural studies opens. Through a complex and rigorous exploration of the various places of enunciation from which a comparatist perspective can be built up, she traces the contours of a fascinating intellectual project grounded in a planetary vision as opposed to globalization. It is essential reading.
Professor of Comparative Literature