On Not Knowing

On 15 March 2018, Professor Rebecca L Walkowitz gave the inaugural lecture, on the subject of 'On Not Knowing', of the newly established annual lecture series organized by the Centre for Modernist Cultures.

 

Rebecca is a Professor in the English Department and an affiliate faculty member in the Comparative Literature Program at Rutgers University, USA. She is a Past President of the Modernist Studies Association (MSA) and the author of, among many other books, Born Translated: The Contemporary Novel in an Age of World Literature, which was published by Columbia University Press in 2015 and received Honorable Mention for the first annual Matei Calinescu Prize from the MLA.

In her lecture, Rebecca argued that new works of world literature by migrants and women are contesting and altering what it means to 'know' a language. They are choosing to embrace imperfect knowledge, challenging the political history of fluency and creating along the way a literature of not-knowing. Rebecca reflected on Jhumpa Lahiri's claim to be an 'ignorant writer' on purpose in the context of Virginia Woolf's writing about foreign languages, the translingual projects of other modernists, and the recent turn to multilingualism in contemporary anglophone literature.

 The audio recording above includes a response from Professor David James.