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Homeless in the World: War, Narrative, and Historical Consciousness in Eileen Chang, Gyorgy Lukacs and Lev Tolstoy

Friday, November 4, 2011 - 2:30pm to 4:00pm
Thomson 134, University of Washington-Seattle

Talk by Professor Roy Chan, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, The College of William and Mary.

This talk explores the ways in which Lev Tolstoy is cited nearly contemporaneously by Gyorgy Lukacs and Eileen Chang: for the former Tolstoy embodies the quintessence of realist narrative in its ability to capture the mass experience of history, while for Chang Tolstoy is marshaled in a defense of her own writing, criticized for being trivial and unpatriotic. I will explore the common resonances of war, narrative and history that run
through Lukacs' and Chang's appropriations of Tolstoy, as well as suggest the ways in which all three writers are trying to grapple with world-historical consciousness through literary form. Noting Lukacs' and Chang's common citation of Tolstoy as a monument to their own writing, I also plan to articulate how all the above writers engage in a special kind of "world literature" indelibly marked by modern warfare and mass produced suffering.