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Dr Zoë Roth, ‘How to Survive a Tyrant. Lessons from Literary Criticism.’

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Usha Kasera Lecture Theatre

Old College, South Bridge

Edinburgh

EH8 9YL

United Kingdom

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The Connecting Memories research intiative is delighted to invite you to our next keynote lecture.

It is an honour to announce that Dr Zoë Roth (Durham University) will be presenting a paper entitled ‘How to Survive a Tyrant. Lessons from Literary Criticism.’

The lecture will take place on Friday, 6th December 2019 at 5.15pm in the Usha Kasera Lecture Theatre in Old College, South Bridge, Edinburgh. The talk will be followed by a Q&A and a wine reception.

We are grateful to the Department of European Literatures and Cultures (DELC) for their support with this event.

The event is free of charge though we ask you to please reserve your place to ensure room capacity and help us manage catering arrangements.

Please feel free to share details of this event with colleagues and friends. We hope you will be able to make it and look forward to seeing you there!

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Zoë Roth is Assistant Professor of French at Durham University. Her research largely focuses on two things: bodies and Jews.

She has been awarded grants and fellowships by the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies, the Harry Ransom Center (UT Texas at Austin), the British Academy, and the Leverhulme Trust.

She has published articles on French and francophone literature and visual culture, Jewish studies, and the Holocaust in such journals as the Journal of Modern Literature and Word & Image.

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Abstract:

The Trump presidency has invited comparisons with fascism and totalitarianism. Far from living at the ‘end of history,’ the sense of traditions, norms, and conventions suddenly giving way has come to shape the political and cultural imaginary of the United States and Europe. Indeed, in the days following the election, Hannah Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism sold out on Amazon and was regularly cited in journalism and popular scholarship on Trumpism. In Origins, Arendt argues that totalitarianism and fascism axiomatically arrange facts to create ideologies that offer a “the total explanation” that is severed from the world individuals perceive through the “five senses, and insists on a ‘truer’ reality concealed behind all perceptible things” (470-71). Totalitarianism and fascism thus work at the level of perception—by changing what appears true, they produce new realities. The question of perception and appearance point to the important role that the aesthetic plays in Arendt’s political philosophy, which also extends to her analysis of visibility, judgment, and the work of art in later books like The Human Condition and The Life of the Mind. Yet to date, her thinking on the aesthetic has not been put into dialogue with her work on totalitarianism, fascism, and terror. This paper thus explores the way aesthetic criticism and the work of art mediate the cultural memory of totalitarianism. Rather than advocating for politicized or ideological readings of aesthetic objects, however, the paper argues that an autonomous approach to the aesthetic provides a bulwark against the irreality of totalitarianism (against ‘alternative facts,’ if you will) by constructing a durable space outside the temporality of politics. It thus develops a mode of ‘political formalism’ that argues literature, art, and drama can foster forms of autonomy and memory that resist the crises of perception brought on by extreme political movements.

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Usha Kasera Lecture Theatre

Old College, South Bridge

Edinburgh

EH8 9YL

United Kingdom

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