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26 May 2021 - 26 May 2021

5:00PM - 6:00PM


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French Research Seminar 2020-2021

Speaker: Dr Elizabeth Marcus (Leeds University)

‘Whose Interpretation is it anyway? The Judge, The Critic and the Public Reader’

A malaise in literary criticism has set in. Recent reassessments of the ambitions of critique as the means to uncover, decipher, and unmask the cultural and structural formations of power have become increasingly vocal. Reflecting the crisis in the humanities more generally, this “postcritical” moment sees critics finding new ways to describe the stakes and methods of reading that might, still, justify the skills attached to the professional practice of literature. These debates may, and justifiably, appear as the internal and anxious expressions of professional turf wars, and of a discipline in decline. But what if, under certain circumstances, the stakes of literary critique were very great indeed for a number of institutions and readers who live, read and work outside of the academy? This paper will attempt to capture the real-life stakes of literary criticism. Looking at the production and reception of two Lebanese films, a recent TV American show, and a recent French author’s fall from fame, as the subjects of diverse literary interpretations and legal outcomes, I will trace how the practices of literary interpretation are increasingly used to make decisions about political validity, and sometimes can be the grounds by which regimes and people might live or die.


This event is open to all, however we request that non-Durham University participants attend via registration. 

Registration for this event will close at 5pm, Tuesday 25 May.