Posted in discussion questions on November 27, 2006 |
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The English Undergraduate Association is sponsoring an event tomorrow in 1119 Susquehanna from 4 to 6pm. “Global Literature and Literary Globalization” is a student/faculty discussion featuring Profs. Randy Ontiveros (English) and Regina Harrison (Comp. Lit.) Hopefully lots of you will come out (and not just English majors…this conversation will be so much more fruitful if we have students from various departments…history, government, languages, anthropology, and I could go on). Here are just a few of the things I hope we’ll discuss.
1) How does literature (and art in general) serve us in a global society? Do you think it has the potential to make us more prepared for global citizenship? Is is a catalyst for cultural understanding?
2) How has globalization changed your work? For the worse or better?
3) What do you think about teaching literature in translation in an academic setting? As part of the English curriculum?
Please feel free to comment on these questions and pose some of your own here. Most likely we will have an audio transcript of the event up on the web as well so even if you can’t make it we can discuss these issues here!
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On November 1, author William Styron died. You all have probably heard of or read one of the following: Lie Down in Darkness, Sophie’s Choice, or The Confessions of Nat Turner. Styron is one of my favorite authors, yet his work has been challenged on ethical grounds. Critics have questioned the ethics of a white southerner envoicing a black slave in Nat Turner. And Sophie’s Choice has been attacked for denying the Jewish specificity of the Holocaust as well as attempting to make art out of something that is beyond art.
The issue of how art (in any form) deals with the most horrific moments in history is something artists have grappled with throughout history. So, I want to grapple with it here. In introducing his obituary Arts and Letters Daily said that Styron “proved that the Holocaust was not beyond art.” However, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel makes quite the opposite argument in his 1983 article Does the Holocaust Lie Beyond the Reach of Art?
So, I want to know what you all think. Are there things that art just can’t touch? Is it exploitative to deal with historical atrocities, particularly if the artist has no personal connection to such atrocities? Or are such subjects the most important for art to deal with? For those of you who are in history, how do you feel about art grappling (perhaps in ways that aren’t historically accurate) with historical issues?
I think ethics and their complications are familiar to us as artists and humanists, and yet we are often uncomfortable discussing ethics as they relate to our own work. So, I’m opening up the discussion here. Reply away!
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