The Novel & Sociological, Linguistic Anthropological, and Other Forms of Knowledge
What are the resources novels marshal to produce knowledge of different kinds? How does the social location from which they emerge impact what they say, the knowledge they can hold. Along with six novels, we will pursue a set of readings from sociology and linguistic anthropology, as well as some key essays from the literature on critical sexuality studies and decolonial thinking. Among the concepts that will be of central concern for us will be point of view, forms of capital, cultural fields, and language ideologies. In our discussions, point of view will refer not only the question of literary technique, but also to a position from which an author writes and a position from which a reader reads. All of these different ways of construing point of view have a relation to the kinds of knowledge a novel can be claimed to hold, and we will work to establish a critical relation to each of them. Forms of capital are for Pierre Bourdieu, part of makes the social world a space of “immanent tendencies” such that “everything is not equally possible or impossible for everyone at any moment,” an observation that seems related to the preoccupations of many realist narratives and to the cultural fields from which they emerge. Linguistic anthropologists think about language ideologies as representing, in the words of Paul Kroskrity, “the perception of language and discourse that is constructed in the interest of a specific social or cultural group.” Readers and writers of novels form groups of this kind in different times and places. Occasionally novelists attempt to innovate regarding “the perception of language and discourse” that a novel communicates to readers. For linguistic anthropologist Michael Silverstein, language ideologies are “sets of beliefs about language articulated by users as a rationalization or justification of perceived language structure and use.” Representing language-in-use becomes both a critical and an aesthetic task in many novels. Kroskrity further emphasizes that “language ideologies are productively used in the creation and representation of various social and cultural identities (e.g. nationality, ethnicity). Language, especially shared language, has long served as the key to naturalizing the boundaries of social groups.” So in this seminar we will also be investigating the possibility that novels can be taken to be archives in which language ideologies and their functions are recorded and critically examined, the possibility that novels are themselves linguistic objects (utterances) that are caught up in language ideologies of their own, including ideologies of the aesthetic, and the ways in which language ideologies and claims to certain kinds of knowledge contribute to the identity formations that novels instantiate.
Novels: Gustave Flaubert, Sentimental Education; Henry James, The Ambassadors; James Baldwin, Just Above My Head; Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty; Marie NDiaye, That Time of Year; Rachel Cusk, Second Place