• Fugitive/Narrative: Some Starting Points

    Stephen Clingman (see profile)
    CLCS Global Jewish, Interdisciplinary Approaches to Culture and Society, TC Law and the Humanities, TC Postcolonial Studies, TM Literary Criticism
    Human rights, Literature, Lévinas, Emmanuel, Adorno, Theodor W., 1903-1969, Agamben, Giorgio, 1942-, Arendt, Hannah, 1906-1975
    Item Type:
    Refugees, Edward Said, route, hospitality, Jenny Erpenbeck, Literature and human rights, Emmanuel Levinas, Theodor W. Adorno, Giorgio Agamben, Hannah Arendt
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    What are the topologies of fugitive/narrative, whether as a matter of experience, theory or fiction? This essay follows a number of trajectories in addressing the question. In part the exploration is prompted by the refugee crisis in many places around the world, yet the issue of the "fugitive" is not exactly identical with that. Moreover, the slash mark in fugitive/narrative suggests a complex relation between the fugitive condition and the renditions of the fictive or the literary, whose implications run all the way from the experiential to the juridical, the ethical to the existential, the linguistic to the political, the philosophical to the archetypal. The essay begins with an unexpected short story by Primo Levi, and it ends with a consideration of Jenny Erpenbeck’s remarkable novel, Go, Went, Gone, which deals with African refugees in Germany. In between, there is discussion of figures including Lukács, Adorno, Auerbach and Said, all of whom explored aspects of the "unhomed" in the world and in texts. Other questions enter in, including issues of bare life and human rights (Arendt, Agamben, Balibar). There are classical lineages (Biblical, Homer, Virgil) and current resonances, as well as issues of hosting, hospitality and hostility raised through the work of Levinas and Derrida. Etymology provides its own insights, not least in offering a revised definition of the "route" as the "broken road," with major implications for the topic. While very little can do justice to the enormity of the refugee experience, this essay on fugitive/narrative is intended as a range of "starting points" in addressing the complexities, complicities and responsibilities of our current world. The published version of the article is available at http://politicsslashletters.org/fugitivenarrative-starting-points/.
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    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    6 years ago


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