Guest lecture by Professor Justin Edwards

Professor Justin Edwards of the University of Surrey, formerly of ENGEROM, is coming to ENGEROM to give a lecture:

The Inhuman, the Uncanny and Spectrality in Contemporary Literature

This paper interrogates categories that are often taken for granted, asking how and when notions of the inhuman, uncanny and spectrality (as well as other discourses of the gothic), come to play a crucial role in contemporary literary and cultural criticism about globalization. The prevalence of metaphors of the gothic to engender demonization in this body of critical work suggests that the modern era is fascinated by gothic tropes and images, reproducing these notions through articulations of subjectivity and poetics. Yet gothic discourse, I suggest, remains politically fluid. It is used by critics mourning the loss of ‘humanity’ and expressing nostalgia for a problematic paradigm of a universal humanism. It is also invoked by critics who conflate globalization with neo-colonialism – those who argue that advanced capitalism replicates forms of modern imperialism found in the 18th and 19th centuries. And it is used by cultural critics who are wary of technology – those who identify the integration of humanity and machinery as a frankensteinesque turn that threatens us with Inhumanism.
With reference to the writings of George Steiner, Jean-François Lyotard and others, the chapter examines how the language of the gothic operates in powerful ways, especially in the genre of ‘theory’. Throughout this paper, then, gothic refers not so much to cultural forms in, say, literature or film or music or dance but to the construction of categories in criticism that engender specific ideas and practices. By focussing on the production of gothic discourses within cultural critiques, we glimpse the continuities and discontinuities between terms such as ‘inhuman’, ‘uncanny’ and ‘spectrality’ in relation to the narratives of displacement, dislocation and fluidity – the border crossings, if you will – in particular narratives of (and about) globalization. For in the genre of theory, the inhuman consequences of globalization are written in blood.

Bio: Justin D. Edwards is professor of English at the University of Surrey. He is author of several books, including Gothic Passages: Racial Ambiguity and the American Gothic (2003), Gothic Canada: Reading the Spectre of a National Literature (2005) and co-author (with Rune Graulund) of Mobility at Large: Globalization, Textuality, Travel Writing (2012).