[ilds] “Lawrence Durrell’s Neo/Anti-Colonial Aesthetic”

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Mon May 28 19:51:12 PDT 2007

Here is an opportunity:

Read below for an abstract on the panels headed up by our own James 
Gifford for the upcoming ACLALS conference in August 2007. 

It seems to me that a number of our best and brightest, here presenting 
with Jamie on his panels, will be discussing some of the 
political-ethical questions we have been raising of late in our coverage 
of /Justine/, Scruton, and Eagleton.

I have copied the website addresses below.  Please give these ILDS 
presenters an audience if you are in the neighborhood.



*The Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (ACLALS)
Literature For Our Times
http://ocs.sfu.ca/aclals/index.php   *
The University of British Columbia (UBC)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
August 17 - 22, 2007

*“Lawrence Durrell’s Neo/Anti-Colonial Aesthetic”*
James Gifford
University of Victoria

     Last modified: April 17, 2007

Ranging from a “force for reconciliation” and beyond “an instrument for 
aesthetic pleasure of the privileged,” literature also has the sinister 
capacity for propaganda, division, exclusionary elitism, and inciting 
not only misinformation but even hate. Responses to the commonwealth 
author Lawrence Durrell (1912-90) have traversed this range. In 1962, 
Mahmoud Manzalaoui declared The Alexandria Quartet exhibited an 
“essential falsity of description” and compared Durrell to 
“Mediterranean fortune-seekers… [who] exploited, carved out their 
fortunes, and distorted facts to justify their position.” In stark 
contrast, M.G. Vassanji in 2002 located Durrell as a positive 
cosmopolitan influence, and Caryl Phillips notes Durrell’s “expatriate 
status greatly influenced his work and he openly acknowledged a 
‘love-hate’ relationship with Britain.” Such conflicts are continued in 
the 2006 proceedings of the Durrell Society’s conference in Egypt, 
Durrell in Alexandria. This scope reflects ongoing debate, especially as 
Durrell’s nationless status was revealed in 2002—born in India yet not 
Indian and never holding British citizenship despite working as a 
British civil servant.
These panels re-examine Durrell’s place in Commonwealth literature, 
coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the publication of the first 
volume of his magnum opus, The Alexandria Quartet, a work that recalls 
the height of the British Empire on the cusp of World War II but from 
the perspective of a post Suez Crisis Egypt and an empire in retreat 
during ENOSIS on Cyprus. This panel also takes particular interest in 
his autobiographical first novel, Pied Piper of Lovers (1935), which 
recounts his childhood in pre-partition India and traumatic return 
‘home’ to Britain. Biographically, this early tension in Durrell’s life 
between Mother India and Father England informs his continuously 
problematic position as a colonial and expatriate.
At the 2004 session of the Durrell School of Corfu, Gayatri Spivak and 
Terry Eagleton illustrated the difficulties within Durrell’s works that 
have resulted in his relative exclusion from postcolonial studies of 
commonwealth literature: i.e. his ironic narrative voice in opposition 
to the kitsch exoticism of the 1950s and 60s. Drawing on the 
biographical complexity of his early position in Empire, these two 
panels discuss the conflicts between Durrell’s Orientalist exoticism, 
his longstanding Philhellenism, his works’ ethical examination of 
alterity, irony in his neocolonialism, and his critiques of Imperialist 
power from within its privilege. Also under consideration is the impact 
of his various mid-life diplomatic postings to sites of hybridity and 
disjunction: Yugoslavia, Cyprus, Egypt, Argentina, and Greece.
The aim of these panels is to enliven the question proposed by the 
conference: “Is literature a force for reconciliation and cross-cultural 
understanding or only an instrument for aesthetic pleasure of the 
privileged?” Debate surrounding this question in Durrell’s oeuvre is 
pressing, and as such he offers a complex conduit through which to 
discuss ACLALS’s theme.

Proposed panels:
Panel 1—Fifty Years After The Alexandria Quartet: Ethics + Aesthetics
o James Gifford, University of Victoria “Silence and 
Speaking—Politicized Irony in Durrell’s Spirit of Place”
o Isabelle Keller, Université Toulouse-le-Mirail “The Discourse of/on 
Faith in Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet”
o Dianne Vipond, California State University Long Beach “The Politics of 
Durrell’s Major Fiction”

Panel 2—Durrell in Relation: Cyprus, India, Serbia, Egypt
o John Bandler, McMaster University “Durrell’s Cyprus—Tainted 
Observations on the Colonial and Postcolonial”
o Nabil Abdel-Al, United Nations “The Cave: A Hideout for Conciliation 
with the Self & the Elements in Durrell’s An Irish Faustus and White 
Eagles over Serbia vs. E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India”
o Peter Midgley, University of Alberta “Lawrence Durrell’s Mountolive 
and André Brink’s The Ambassador: The Colonizer and the Colonized’s 

Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
Wake Forest University
slighcl at wfu.edu

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