Working Group on the Novel: Victoria Zurita, Comparative Literature Department, Dissertation Chapter

Thu April 30th 2020, 6:00pm
Event Sponsor
Center for the Study of the Novel

Respondent: Lisa Surwillo, Professor and Chair of ILAC, Stanford

Abstract of the Dissertation Project: 

A rebours and De sobremesa recount a period in the life of two consummate bachelors who spend the better part of their days admiring their collections of extraordinary objects, traveling to lands real and imagined, and exercising their sickly sensitivities. Both novels share a significant amount of thematic and structural similarities. Both are steeped in the language of pathology, mysticism, and melancholy that characterizes decadent literature. These similarities, however, give way to astonishing deviations, as the medical and religious discourses describing the subjectivities of the two protagonists encounter situated notions of heredity, national history, and gender. My paper traces the intellectual genesis of these variations on a turn-of-the-century literary figure: the collector. Inspired by scholarship at the intersection of literary studies and global intellectual history (Regenia Gagnier, Christopher Hill), I hope to show how connections between form and local intellectual environments challenge prevailing narratives about the relationship between literary modernization and modernity. In a time where a rather simple view of this relationship serves to justify the global expansion of some Anglo-American subfields, putting the traditional labels of European historiography to the test of non-European contexts might lead us away from expansion and encourage more careful and inclusive redefinitions