Art and Otherness: Tragic Visions in Modern Literature
Karamally, Hamza Ali
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My dissertation is entitled Art and Otherness: Tragic Visions in Modern Literature. The two main subjects of inquiry I take up are the figure of the otherboth as an expression of phenomenological alterity and as a postcolonial subjectand the representation of this figure in modern literature. I investigate the intersections between these two subjects, i.e. whether art is an especially insightful medium or discourse to discuss the subject of otherness in the sense that it represents a disruption within the nature of experience that resembles the encounter with the other. As a basic rationale, my dissertation also accordingly attempts a self-reflexivity grounded in problematizing both the formulation of and interaction between competing conventions of otherness. More succinctly, I attempt herein a methodology that reads across discourses whilst remaining on their margins, with the dual purpose of avoiding the self-confirmation of each ratiocination and finding, specifically in art (and in particular literature), a discursive practice that seeks to avoid, or perhaps transcend, a stable definition of otherness. To effectively probe the various political, psychological, existential and phenomenal aspects of otherness, my project and chapters are organized around these separate but overlapping dimensions. My selected texts are predominantly from the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with a particular focus on Modernist literature, as the latters anxieties about the nature of art and of the other are particularly useful to probe these and other relevant questions. I focus primarily on fiction by Joseph Conrad, E.M. Forster, Mary Shelley, Virginia Woolf, Salman Rushdie, Anita Desai, Albert Camus, Kamel Daoud, Don DeLillo, Saadat Hasan Manto, Yann Martel and Herman Melville, to which I apply a variety of theoretical lenses. I juxtapose these texts from different literary canons and maintain a correspondingly interdisciplinary critical approach in order to disentangle the figure of the other from various competing ontological and theoretical systems. My premise for this methodology is that pairing and reading these texts in unusual contexts allows for a drawing out of shared symbology, themes and metaphors and opens up a space for a more robust conversation about the relationship between art and otherness.