Literature and Event : Twenty-First Century Reformulations book cover
1st Edition

Literature and Event
Twenty-First Century Reformulations

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ISBN 9780367774547
November 30, 2021 Forthcoming by Routledge
336 Pages

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Book Description

If ‘event’ is a proper name we reserve for monumental changes, crises, transitions and ruptures that are by their very nature unnameable or unthinkable, then this volume is an attempt to set up an encounter between such eventhood as it comes to have a bearing on literary works and the work of reading literature.

As the event continues to provide a valuable analytical paradigm for work undertaken within the newer sub-disciplines of literary and critical theory, including close reading, bio-politics, world literature, and eco-criticism, this volume makes a concerted effort to update the scholarship in this area and foreground the recent resurgence of interest in the concept. The book provides both a retrospective appraisal of the significance of events to literary studies and the literary humanities, as well as contemporary and prospective appraisals of the same, and thus would appeal scholars and instructors in the areas of literary theory, comparative literature and philosophical aesthetics alike.

Along with a specialist focus on thinkers such as Derrida, Badiou, Deleuze and Malabou, the essays in volume read a wide corpus of literature ranging from Han Kang, Homer, Renee Gladman, Proust and Flaubert to Yoruba ideophones, Browning, Anne Carson, Jenichiro Oyabe and Ben Lerner.

Table of Contents

The Gift of the Event

Mantra Mukim

I. Senses

Section Introduction

  1. Event, Non-Event, and Interpretation: Catherine Malabou with Anne Carson
  2. Stephen Darren Dougherty

  3. "A trait for a trait": Literature and the Graphic Event
  4. Thomas Gould

  5. Unexceptional Events; Or, Scarcely Audible Literature
  6. Naomi Waltham-Smith

  7. Recherche as Event: Proust, Nietzsche, and the Aesthetic Disposition
  8. Bryan Counter

    II. Possibility/Impossibility

    Section Introduction

  9. Death as the Virtual in Howard Barker’s Evental Ontology: The Virtual, Phantasm and Impossible Desire in The Theatre of Catastrophe
  10. Alireza Fakhrkonandeh

  11. Althusser, Badiou, Leibniz, and the Compossibility of Events
  12. Kurt Cavender

  13. The Withness of the Earth: Haptic Epistemology in Climatic Times
  14. Min Ji Choi

  15. What happens when nothing happens?
  16. Sarah Bouttier

    III. After: History, Narrativity, Metaphor

    Section Introduction

  17. Plastic Events, Spectral Events: Literature and the ‘Real of the Phantasm,’ between Malabou and Derrida
  18. Thomas Cleìment Mercier

  19. On Deities: The Aesthetics of Concretion
  20. Milind Wakankar


  21. Leòìyìn Kété Níbi Nì SòeòleòÌ: Disaster, Event, and Ideophone
  22. Adeleke Adeeko

  23. The Eventful Shipwreck: Robinson Crusoe, Jenichiro Oyabe and the World Literary Map of the Drifters
  24. Irmak Saygın

    IV. Forms

    Section Introduction

  25. The Event of the Literary Work
  26. Derek Attridge

  27. Odysseus’s Historical Tears: Hamacher’s Literary Events and the Historicity of Abschied
  28. Ronald Mendoza-de Jesús

  29. The Uneventfulness and Failure of ‘Projects’ in Contemporary Literature
  30. Alexander Scherr


  31. Narrating the Other: On Speaking of the Origin of Time and Time of the Origin

Lucas Scott Wright

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Mantra Mukim is currently a doctoral candidate in the Department of English, University of Warwick, where he is researching failure and eventhood in the works of Samuel Beckett. His articles have most recently appeared in Textual Practice, Irish Studies Review and Review 31.


Derek Attridge is Emeritus Professor at the University of York. His publications span such topics as the history of poetry, South African literature, James Joyce, poetic form, and literary theory. His theoretical works include Peculiar Language: Literature as Difference from the Renaissance to James Joyce (Cornell, 1988, reissued by Routledge in 2004), The Singularity of Literature (Routledge, 2004; reissued as a Routledge Classic in 2017), Reading and Responsibility: Deconstruction’s Traces (Edinburgh, 2010), and The Work of Literature (Oxford, 2015). He co-edited Post-structuralism and the Question of History (Cambridge, 1987), Theory after "Theory" (Routledge, 2011), and The Work of Reading: Literary Criticism in the 21st Century (Routledge, 2021), and edited Jacques Derrida's Acts of Literature (Routledge, 1992). He is a Fellow of the British Academy


"Literature and Event is full of surprises. This rich collection by a group of iconoclastic thinkers moves through classic theories of the event into experiments that test how literature – as gesture, inscriptive mark of graphic agency, or happening (at once exceptional and unexceptional) - might be defined "eventally." The book provides rich interdisciplinary applications for the event’s conceptual panoply: Aristotelian kairos, Heideggerian Ereignis , Badiou’s truth-event, Althusser’s "time of times" (of capital), Benjamin’s Jetztzeit, Malabou’s "plastic" event; a politics awaited or infinitely deferred, the decision, the standstill, revolution, cataclysm, survival, the accident, the actant, the micro-event, the moment of living death, the instance of the letter, the question of what a poem does or might do. An excellent teaching tool, this book is no small publishing event in itself, with multifaceted contributions that lay the groundwork for a new critical appreciation of what the event is, and how it can be theorized in literature, aesthetics, historical analysis and politics." Emily Apter, Silver Professor of Comparative Literature and French, New York University. Author of Unexceptional Politics: On Obstruction, Impasse and the Impolitic (Verso, 2018)


"Moving beyond the occasion of the conference at which many of the essays were first presented, this volume is something of an event in literary theory. Attending to what is irruptive and aporetic, undecidable and singular in the literary work, the chapters collectively offer incisive explorations of the literary by focusing, across languages and cultures, on what one contributor refers to as its ‘conceptually alluring’ status as event." Andrew Bennett, Professor of English, University of Bristol


"The relationship between literature and history is perhaps the conceptual problem of literary studies today. One way of addressing the relation – the dominant way – is through "form". The other, more interesting route is through the notion of the "event". The essays in this collection offer multiple angles on this question, and they vastly expand the field beyond the limits of, say, the "Badiou" (exceptional) event and the "Deleuze" (unexceptional) event. Fascinating discussions of micropolitics, theories of plasticity and contingency, autofiction, and experiments in "graphic events" that straddle writing and drawing, shift the debate into new theoretical and practical terrain. This is an indispensable, field-shaping volume." Timothy Bewes, author of The Event of Postcolonial Shame (Princeton University Press, 2011).


"From trace, exception, and the work of art to impossibility, singularity and gift, the "event" has taken the guise of many of the most salient categories in literary and cultural theory. This volume shows that such "events" continue to play a motivating role in theory today, providing a unique and literary prism through which we can address, from unexpected angles, such questions as climate change, political action, and the limits of conceiving of life and death." Julia Ng, Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, Goldsmiths, University of London


"Literature and Event: Twenty-First Century Reformulations is an important intervention into contemporary literary studies. The volume considers afresh the concept of the event, so crucial to continental philosophy and literary criticism alike. In a series of thought-provoking essays, this is a tour-de-force through key thinkers and writers of the event, highlighting its conceptual, aesthetic and critical import for literature and literary studies. With remarkable breadth and across genres, the collection reflects on the unique power of literature to provoke newness and invoke indeterminacy. As such, the volume is a crucial contribution to calibrating literary studies for the twenty-first century." Birgit Mara Kaiser, Utrecht University