We were honoured and delighted to have ground-breaking critical thinker and expert in the field of World Literature, Dr Sharae Deckard as guest speaker at our penultimate event of what has been a most enriching year. Sharae’s visit to the Postcolonial and World Literatures & Cultures Reading Group was a highlight for the group as well as many PGRs working across the humanities at the University of Leeds and beyond.
In ““Dreams of Revolt, The Revolt of Nature”: World-Literature, Revolution, and Ecology,” Sharae explored the capacity of contemporary world literature to figure revolution, both historical and imagined. By looking at ‘storm texts’ for their representation of the limits of commodification of non-human nature, the paper considered literature’s relation to periodicity, whilst also raising questions of genre and the aesthetic mediation of revolution.
In the workshop that followed, we looked at Sharae’s chapter in the upcoming collection Capitalism’s Ecologies: Culture, Power and Crisis in the Twenty-First Century, “Mapping Planetary Nature: Conjectures on World-Ecological Fiction”. This most crucial material provided a critical platform for us to engage in lively discussion and debate as we considered together the commodification of literature and the proliferation of ‘airport novels’, issues of circulation and marketization, and the relation between radical politics, sci-fi, and popular novels.
We explored pressing questions regarding the extent of the correspondence between world-literature and the world-economy, as well as the capaciousness of the category of the ‘extra-human’ (including ‘free gifts’, meteorological events, microbes and the issue of social reproduction). Sharae’s expansive paper prompted many insights from the group which led us to a discussion surrounding ideas of the human and legal personhood (as extended to corporations, and latterly to non-human animals and rivers) as it complicates the category of the ‘extra-human’.
Sharae’s critical interventions into the contemporary global challenges that face our society are pivotal to understanding the ways in which issues such as financialisation, globalisation, and economic crises transform our environments, and the ways that we both make our environments, and are made by them.
We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to Sharae for sharing her time, knowledge and expertise with us.