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'On Not Knowing' (Centre for Modernist Cultures, First Annual Lecture)

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University of Birmingham

Law Building, Lecture Theatre 2

Birmingham, England B15 2TT

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'On Not Knowing' is the inaugural lecture of the newly established annual lecture series organized by the Centre for Modernist Cultures, which is housed in the School of English, Drama, and American & Canadian Studies at the University of Birmingham, UK.

Rebecca L. Walkowitz is 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). She is the author of 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. Parts of the book have been translated into Danish, Hungarian, and Polish, and a full translation into Japanese is forthcoming. She is the author of Cosmopolitan Style: Modernism Beyond the Nation (2006) and the editor or co-editor of eight books, including Immigrant Fictions: Contemporary Literature in an Age of Globalization (2007) and Bad Modernisms (2006, with Douglas Mao). With Eric Hayot, she has recently edited A New Vocabulary for Global Modernism (2016), a volume of experimental essays by leading scholars in the fields of world literature and modernist studies. Professor Walkowitz is the recipient of several major national and university fellowships, including a British Marshall Scholarship, a Javits Fellowship, an ACLS Fellowship, a National Humanities Center Fellowship, a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship, and three teaching prizes from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In this lecture, Professor Walkowitz will argue 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. Prof. Walkowitz will reflect 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.

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University of Birmingham

Law Building, Lecture Theatre 2

Birmingham, England B15 2TT

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