Workshop 1: Registration Deadline Extended and Some Exciting News

We’ve had a lot of interest in our first workshop. As a result, we are pleased to announce that we are extending the registration deadline to 28 August 2016. Please see the events page for full details of how to register!

In other exciting news, our first workshop will be followed by a live literary eventfeaturing Nikesh Shukla, editor of The Good Immigrant, reading from his work and in conversation. The reading is free and open to all workshop participants and the general public, and will be held at Watershed Bristol, in Waterside 3, from 6-7:30 pm. Watch this space for further details.

Finally, this blog post at the New York Times on ‘Reading Novels at Medical School’ caught my eye earlier this week. I was particularly struck by this quote:

Our busy jobs on the hospital wards require precision and efficiency, but in literature class we can slow down and explore human lives and thoughts in a different, more complex way. The class is an anatomy lab of the mind. We examine cultural conventions and conflicting perspectives, and reflect on our own preconceived notions about life and work. Reading attentively and well, we hope, will become a sustaining part of our daily lives and practice.

The general idea here seems to be that, through literature, it is possible to more fully explore other minds and lives with nuance and care (a similar line of thought to that found in Martha Nussbaum’s work). I wonder, however, how much that holds true? In my own classes on postcolonial and African literature, I often spend a lot of time emphasizing to my students that the characters they read about are just that – fictional characters, the product of imaginative creation, textual practice and socio-political context, and not real people. Part of why I do this is to work against the ‘anthropological fallacy’ that often attends to African literature. At the same time, it is true that reading often functions through the emotional connections we develop with characters, and that much of the pleasure of fiction comes precisely from this. Yet, I can’t help but feel a bit uneasy about the idea of the novel as ‘an anatomy lab of the mind’ and wonder how, as we read, we can take away insights and understanding without falling into appropriation or even co-optation?

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