Textual entanglements & entangled texts: On relationality and narrative

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

The notion of entanglement is central to critical posthumanist thought. It might be said to have replaced the ubiquitous network metaphor or even the paradigm of the global in a number of contexts; at the very least, it stands in a tense relationship to them. While the figure of the globe is undeniably linked to human(ist) construction practices and the European colonial project, and a network-like connectedness implies links between objects that are ultimately thought of as separate, the topos of entanglement entails a fundamentally different, relational form of (intra)connectedness with other ethical implications. When fctional texts generate connectivity, e.g. by linking storylines that are separated in terms of their geographies, literary studies often habitually refer to these texts as "global novels" or "network narratives".

The implications of these tropes of connectivity themselves - as briefy outlined above - are rarely given much thought; and as labels, they cannot account for more complex and meshwork-like formations. In this talk, I will be thinking about the poetics and aesthetics of entanglement.

Comparative literature's changing conceptions of world literature have largely been informed by humanist thinking and the global paradigm, but as the climate crisis exposes the inextricable interconnectedness of globalisation and the anthropocene, 'natural' and 'cultural' histories, and species thinking and historical thinking (Chakrabarty 2009), wouldn't it be time to let theories of world literature and critical posthumanism converge? One route into this might be to extend Édouard Glissants poetics of relation to non-human actors, and to put Glissant into a conversation with Karen Barad's concept of agential realism. Working with texts by J.M. Coetzee, Olga Tokarczuk, and Richard Powers, I will show how they destabilise the binaries and demarcations targeted by a critical posthumanist agenda, how literature ultimately test the limits of object-oriented ontology and its anti-relational stance, and how geography still matters in all of this.

At the same time, the framework of posthumanist entanglement helps questioning the popular conception of literature as simply 'playing through' or modelling fctionalised versions of human experience, and to think about literature as an experiential space and as a relational ethics in its own right.

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Cecilie Klingenberg