Deathworlds, the World Novel and the Human

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Foundational to the English novel in the eighteenth century was a narrative grammar of the human structured around two ideas: sympathy and sovereignty. Linking these two were deliberations on the role of technology in determining the reach and extent of the sympathetic imagination. This essay reprises the novel’s historical links with distant suffering and technologies of mediation – the staple of debates on the sentimental novel and the rise of Abolitionism in the late eighteenth century – in the context of the emergence of a critical mass of world novels written against the backdrop of post-1989 sites of geopolitical carnage. New media technologies and multiple visual regimes have been critical in mediating these deathworlds for diverse publics around the world. What changes, I ask, are being wrought on the narrative grammar of the human in the novel form in this era of spectatorial capitalism where the capacity to respond to distant suffering has increased manifold with advances in information technology?

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This article outlines the history of research in global literature as a history that is itself global. This kind of global history of the theorization of global literature demands a departure from the existing accounts and their nascent gap between heated theoreticist debates and pacifying historicist anthologies. A global approach to the problematic can bridge this gap because it considers not only what the most influential studies on global literature say, but also where and when they say it. Whether these be Romantic assertions of world literature, post-war pleas for cosmopolitan literature, Cold War polemics about ‘Third World’ literature, or millennial theories of transnational, post-national, planetary, and, indeed, global literature, the article considers not only the object of these studies but also the studies themselves as an object; not only the text but also the context. Hence, a historicization of literary theories of globalization in effect bleeds into a historicization of globalization itself.
Sontag discusses war and atrocity imagry. "The understanding of war among people who have not experienced war is now chiefly a product of the impact of these images". Meaning and response to a photo depends on words. Photos are useful against an unpopular war but "absent such a protest, the same antiwar photograph may be read as showing pathos, or heroism." Photos help us remember, but not understand. "Narratives can make us understand. Photographs do something else: they haunt us." "Image-glut keeps attention light, mobile, relatively indifferent to content. Image-flow precludes a privileged image". Images are meant to invite reflection and consideration but "cannot dictate a course of action".
Contents Acknowledgements List of Abbreviations PART I Mission Unaccomplished The Bubbling Cauldron PART II Return From Exile Troubled Times Toward the Precipice PART III Turning a Blind Eye Arms Over Plowshares Aftermath PART IV African Limitations French and Belgian Prevarication American Reticence PART V Parameters of Genocide Crime and Punishment PART VI Humanitarian Intervention A Comparative Perspective Sovereignty's Death Throes Index
In this timely study of the historical, ideological, and formal interdependencies of the novel and human rights, Joseph Slaughter demonstrates that the twentieth-century rise of world literatureand international human rights law are related phenomena. Slaughter argues that international law shares with the modern novel a particular conception of the human individual. The Bildungsroman, the novel of coming of age, fills out this image, offering a conceptual vocabulary, a humanist social vision, and a narrative grammar for what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and early literary theorists both call the free and full development of the human personality.Revising our received understanding of the relationship between law and literature, Slaughter suggests that this narrative form has acted as a cultural surrogate for the weak executive authority of international law, naturalizing the assumptions and conditions that make human rights appear commonsensical. As a kind of novelistic correlative to human rights law, the Bildungsroman has thus been doing some of the sociocultural work of enforcement that the law cannot do for itself. This analysis of the cultural work of law and of the social work of literature challenges traditional Eurocentric histories of both international law and the dissemination of the novel. Taking his point of departure in Goethe's Wilhelm Meister, Slaughter focuses on recent postcolonial versions of the coming-of-age story to show how the promise of human rights becomes legible in narrative and how the novel and the law are complicit in contemporary projects of globalization: in colonialism, neoimperalism, humanitarianism, and the spread of multinational consumer capitalism.Slaughter raises important practical and ethical questions that we must confront in advocating for human rights and reading world literature-imperatives that, today more than ever, are intertwined.
In the wake of the collapse of the cold war bipolar world order, Jacques Derrida wrote: Losing the enemy would simply be the loss of the political itself. … The invention of the enemy is where the urgency and the anguish are: this invention is what would have to be brought off, in sum to repoliticize, to put an end to depoliticization. Where the principal enemy, the “structuring” enemy, seems nowhere to be found, where it ceases it to be identifiable and thus reliable—that is, where the same phobia projects a mobile multiplicity of potential interchangeable metonymic enemies, in secret alliance with one another: conjuration. ( Politics 84)
Victorian Studies 48.1 (2005) 92-102 At the climactic crisis in Ian McEwan's recent novel, Saturday (2005), set in the days before the United States declares war on Iraq, Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach" (1867) saves the day. Not a poem generally known for its optimism, let alone for its salvific capacities—"for the world...Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, / Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain" (30–34)—"Dover Beach" manages, even so, to tranquilize the savage pathology of a home intruder. This intruder, who is called Baxter, seeks payback for a humiliating confrontation between himself and the protagonist of the novel, Henry Perowne, earlier in the day, when their cars had randomly collided on a London street that had been barricaded to control the historic number of Britons protesting the Anglo-American march to war. Baxter and Perowne confront one another as class opposites: the lower-class tough, whose angry intention is all fists and kicks, and the upper-class professional, all brain, no brawn, and now bloodied, who yet has the last word when he defuses Baxter's embodied aggression into an abstract diagnosis of Huntington's disease. The impending rape is therefore for Baxter much more about regaining his bodily authority than revenging the ding on his car. With a knife at the throat of a wife, and an intent to ravage a daughter, Baxter listens to the naked young woman recite Arnold's masterpiece, is apparently overcome with awe at the human-made beauty of it, and gives up his violent ambition. McEwan is too shrewd an observer of his contemporary moment to attempt an unironized translation of Miranda taming Caliban; McEwan sees all too well the bad faith at work in the story of the beauty and her beast. If, in his mesmerized admiration of the poem, Baxter is rendered awestruck, he is also rendered a dupe, for he is led to believe that the poem is the daughter's own creation—a ruse that is equally effective on the eminent neurosurgeon Perowne, who knows the brain but apparently not its culture. After some moments of confusion, he too is arrested by this poem that he thinks his beloved Daisy has penned. In the thick of these misattributions of authorship, "Dover Beach" nonetheless saves this Saturday in the lives of these characters. Incredible and surely repulsive if proffered merely as a rape prevention technique, as deployed in this way Arnold's poem dramatizes a powerful fantasy, a Victorian fantasy that still entices us. The explicit claims that Arnold himself might wish to make for "Dover Beach" and art more generally—something about art's capacity to humanize the Baxters of our day—just doesn't seem politically correct or even very plausible in a post-9/11 era. Even so, at a moment of acute danger, when terrorists both domestic and foreign amass—"as on a darkling plain / Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, / Where ignorant armies clash by night" (35–37)—"Dover Beach" delivers to this little group the very loveliest version of the Victorian fantasy of liberal agency: "Ah love, let us be true / To one another!" (29–30). Arnold's poem, of course, is much more than a love poem, for it details his belief in the liberal subject's ability to seek out a private space of thoughtful emotion, of human intimacy, where subjects alienated in mind or body can become fully authentic and intentional in relation to themselves and to each other, in spite of the chaotic world without. To what extent McEwan himself indulges in this fantasy of liberalism is difficult to measure, but the author does allow Perowne his own version of "Dover Beach." Having helped to push the distracted Baxter down a flight of stairs, gravely injuring him, Perowne then volunteers to operate on his damaged brain. By demonstrating his powers of detachment, his admirable ability to distance himself from his own multiple interests (his car, his daughter, his wife, his career) and the damage Baxter has incurred or threatened to incur and to...
As a result of the decision by NATO to use force in response to the Kosovo crisis, issues about the legality and morality of humanitarian intervention have again begun to dominate the international legal agenda. This article explores the ways in which international legal texts about intervention operate at the ideological or representational level. It draws on feminist and post-colonial theories of subjectivity and identification to suggest that the desire to intervene militarily in cases of crisis is a product of the deeper narratives and flows of meaning within which texts about intervention are inserted. The narratives of the new interventionism create a powerful sense of self for those who identify with the hero of the story, be that the international community, the Security Council, NATO or the United States. As a result, these narratives operate not only in the realm of state systems, rationality and facts, but also in the realm of identification, imagination, subjectivity and emotion. The article explores some of the implications for international lawyers of the recognition that their arguments about intervention have effects at this personal and subjective level.
Mary Kaldor's New and Old Wars has fundamentally changed the way both scholars and policy-makers understand contemporary war and conflict. In the context of globalization, this path-breaking book has shown that what we think of as war - that is to say, war between states in which the aim is to inflict maximum violence - is becoming an anachronism. In its place is a new type of organized violence or 'new wars', which could be described as a mixture of war, organized crime and massive violations of human rights. The actors are both global and local, public and private. The wars are fought for particularistic political goals using tactics of terror and destabilization that are theoretically outlawed by the rules of modern warfare. Kaldor's analysis offers a basis for a cosmopolitan political response to these wars, in which the monopoly of legitimate organized violence is reconstructed on a transnational basis and international peacekeeping is reconceptualized as cosmopolitan law enforcement. This approach also has implications for the reconstruction of civil society, political institutions, and economic and social relations. This third edition has been fully revised and updated. Kaldor has added an afterword answering the critics of the New Wars argument and, in a new chapter, Kaldor shows how old war thinking in Afghanistan and Iraq greatly exacerbated what turned out to be, in many ways, archetypal new wars - characterised by identity politics, a criminalised war economy and civilians as the main victims. Like its predecessors, the third edition of New and Old Wars will be essential reading for students of international relations, politics and conflict studies as well as to all those interested in the changing nature and prospect of warfare.
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