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22nd January, 2013

Back to Babel: Global English in a Multilingual World

Event Details

22nd January, 2013
Skeel Lecture Theatre Lecture Theatre, Peoples’ Palace, Mile End Campus
Free, but booking required

David Damrosch, Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature and Chair, Department of Comparative Literature, Harvard University

In After Babel, George Steiner emphasized language communities’ desire to preserve their individuality by heightening the “alterities” of their local languages. In the decades since then, the cherished alterities of local and national cultures have come growing under pressure from globalization. Has Steiner’s hermeneutic Babylon been swallowed up in a “global babble” increasingly dominated by English? With examples drawn from contemporary Tibetan fiction and from global hip-hop, I will explore a new kind of alterity introduced in uses of global English today. English itself, it turns out, can be warped into a creative mode of counter-communication, at once deprovincializing and reinvigorating “minor” languages and local cultures alike.

David Damrosch is the Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature and Chair, Department of Comparative Literature, Harvard University. His degrees, including his PhD (“Scripture and Fiction: Egypt, the Midrash, Finnegans Wake”), are from Yale University. Damrosch is the founding Director of the Institute of World Literature; in 2001-2003, he was President of the American Comparative Literature Association. He is the author of six books and numerous articles; amongst his many distinctions is an honorary doctorate from the University of Bucharest (2011). His impact on the field of world literature has been significant, especially through his monograph, What Is World Literature? (2003), and his general editorship of the six-volume Longman Anthology of World Literature (2004; 2nd ed. 2008).

A reception will follow the lecture.

For more information please click here.


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