Main content start

Ian Watt Lecture: Rita Felski

Fri May 3rd 2019, 5:00 - 7:00pm
Event Sponsor
Center for the Study of the Novel, Department of English
Terrace Room, Margaret Jacks Hall
Ian Watt Lecture: Rita Felski

The Ian Watt Lecture in the History and Theory of the Novel commemorates the renowned Stanford professor whose work has profoundly influenced literary study for nearly 60 years. This lecture presents an annual opportunity to discuss core intellectual issues surrounding the novel and literary studies.

This year, Prof. Rita Felski (University of Virginia, University of South Denmark) will lecture on fictional characters and identification. Here is an overview of her talk:


Identification: A Defense

This talk offers a defense of identification and a reconsideration of character. It argues that identifying is a more complex and variable process than it is often taken to be. Disentangling four strands of identification—alignment, allegiance, recognition, and empathy--it expands on their differing entailments and proposes that identification shapes academic as well as lay reading. Identifying with characters, meanwhile, overlaps with attachments to an author, a star, or a style. Characters are portmanteau creatures, assembled out of disparate materials drawn from fiction and life. Rather than being restricted to a single text, they can serve as nodes in many networks. They are distributed, adapted, and mediated. Their presence can be exceptionally vivid, yet it is painstakingly composed.