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The position of the author in the cultural imagination is tied to the idea of the artist as prophetic authority and acute critic of the zeitgeist, who appeals to the political, moral, and social conscience of their readership. This webinar probes the close entanglement of authorship and authority, which often reveals glaring fault-lines between the author’s public and private selves, ‘pure’ art and political commitment, agency and ideological appropriation. Tore Rem scrutinises the authorial role of controversial Norwegian Nobel laureate Knut Hamsun (1859-1952), who became a prominent supporter of European fascist regimes. He outlines the national conditions as well as the significance of Hamsun’s growing literary celebrity for his conception of authorship before looking at how Hamsun tried to renegotiate his authorial role in his memoir On Overgrown Paths (1949). The questions pursued by Foteini Dimirouli revolve around the autonomy of art and its ability to resist cooption for political ends – questions that assume particular poignancy when the artist is no longer able to speak on behalf of the art. Her explorations centre on the Greek-Alexandrian poet C. P. Cavafy (1863-1933) and his transformation into a cipher for ideological warfare in the late 1960s and 70s. Margaret Scarborough discusses the ways in which Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922-1975), notorious Italian poet, filmmaker, and intellectual, problematised the nexus of authority and authorship in his own person and work. Honing in on his self-fashioning as a modern Socrates, she examines Pasolini’s development from the 1960s onwards as a vocal political theorist and activist.
Tore Rem is Director of UiO:Nordic, an interdisciplinary research initiative at the University of Oslo, and Professor of English-language literature. He has published on Dickens, Ibsen, book history, life writing, and world literature, and is the author of several biographies of Norwegian writers. His most recent book, co-written with Narve Fulsås, is Ibsen, Scandinavia and the Making of a World Drama (Cambridge UP, 2018). He is also general editor of the new Penguin Classics Ibsen edition (2015-19).
Foteini Dimirouli is Outreach Fellow and Career Development Fellow in English at Keble College, Oxford. She works on English and Modern Greek literature, often in comparison. Dimirouli’s key topics of interest include transnational literary dialogue, the workings of the cultural field, and the process of canon formation. Her monograph Authorising the Other: C. P. Cavafy in the English and American Literary Scene (under contract with OUP, 2020) examines writings by influential Anglophone authors who were pivotal to the Greek-Alexandrian poet C. P. Cavafy’s rising international acclaim over the twentieth century. In her work Dimirouli also takes a keen interest in: E. M. Forster’s work relating to interwar Alexandria; Anglophone cultural journalism and its political function from the twentieth century to the present day; the constitution of the cultural field under authoritarianism; the politics of literary translation.
Margaret Scarborough is a PhD candidate in Italian and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, New York. She holds a BA in European and Middle Eastern Languages from the University of Oxford, in Italian and Arabic, and a Masters, also from Oxford, in Medieval Studies. She was a visiting student at the Scuola Normale, Pisa, and the Peter Szondi-Institut for Comparative Literature, Berlin. Her dissertation, “Beyond Dis/Possession: The Critical Subjects of Postwar Italian Ethics,” is a selective conceptual history of possession in the modern period that focuses on Italian critiques from 1945 to the present. Working with texts drawn from different genres, including screenplays, feminist manifestos, and treatises of political philosophy, she draws attention to writing’s ethical potential as a tool of non-possessive selfhood.
This series of webinars is convened by Sandra Mayer (University of Vienna / Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, firstname.lastname@example.org) and Ruth Scobie (Mansfield College, Oxford, email@example.com), and is supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) in collaboration with The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing (OCLW), Postcolonial Writers Make Worlds, and The Stephen Spender Trust.