Saturday, October 15, 2011

The ABCs of the novel

I'm not sure whether this link will work for non-Columbia affiliates (it's an alumni event, but really it's open to the public), so I'll paste in the information just in case. They have a funny constraint: you are allowed to use a sheet of notes or an aide-memoire of some sort, but you're not supposed to lecture, they will prefer speakers to carry on off the tops of their heads! This is good, under the circumstances, as Monday is yet again my long teaching day: I've got a set of undergraduate assignments to comment on, Plato's "Phaedrus" and Derrida's essay "Plato's pharmacy" to read and prepare for the graduate class and a slew of poems about women by Swift and Pope (plus Johnson's "Life of Pope") for the afternoon class...

It would be nice to see a few familiar faces at the event, and if you are a regular reader here but don't know me in person and decide to attend, please make sure to introduce yourself!

Cafe Humanities: The ABCs of the Novel with Jenny Davidson
Date: Oct 17, 2011
Time: 6:00PM - 7:00PM ET
Location: PicNic Cafe
2665 Broadway (between 101st and 102nd), NYC


Cafe Humanities is a series of informal discussions about the questions surrounding the humanities field today, led by Columbia University's foremost professors. The discussions are held at the Picnic Market Cafe at 2665 Broadway (between 101st and 102nd Street).

Professor of English and Comparative Literature Jenny Davidson will discuss The ABCs of the Novel

We often talk about the novel emerging in 17th-century Europe in response to all sorts of social, political and economic factors, in short as a historical phenomenon rooted in a particular time, place and set of intellectual conditions. A historical understanding is so integral to the discipline of English literary studies that we frequently don’t even question the premise that literature is best considered in groupings determined primarily by historical and geographical constraints. Davidson asks what happens when we banish historicism from the explanatory scheme and return to considering novels primarily in terms of their formal properties. Come listen to her share some thoughts about the risks and rewards of this sort of approach, as well as considering how it might let us revisit classics such as Don Quixote, Tom Jones and War and Peace with fresh eyes.

For more information, see

Space is limited; $10 cover (cash only) includes one drink

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