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Ayelet Ben-Yishai: Through English, Densely: Comparative Partitions, Complicity and the Anglophone Classroom

Monday, April 02, 2018 - 04:30pm - 05:00pm

Speaker: Ayelet Ben-Yishai, English Department, University of Haifa

Respondents: Emrah Efe Khayyat, Department of African, Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Literatures, Rutgers University; Mukti Lakhi Mangharam, Department of English, Rutgers University

In his recent book Forget English!: Orientalisms and World Literatures (Harvard, 2016), Aamir Mufti argues that our contemporary embrace of “world literature” – especially but not only in English – occludes the Orientalism (and colonial history) intimately folded into these texts. And yet, as trenchant and timely as Mufti’s critique may be, it still seems to overlook the fact that literature in English, and indeed "world literature” in English is taught and studied by students and teachers who are not North American, nor Anglo-European, for whom English is anything but transparent. In my talk, I reflect on my experiences teaching a seminar on the Anglophone literature of the 1947 South Asian Partition to Jewish-Israeli and Palestinian students in the English Department at Haifa  – an especially dense nexus of colonial and postcolonial histories, experiences and textual sensibilities. Instead an of Anglophone literature that “naturalize[s] itself, erasing the scene of politics and power that marks its emergence” as Mufti would have it, I describe a pedagogical practice that does just the opposite: it reinvests the Anglophone texts with their historical, political and formal density while raising important questions about comparative methodologies.

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