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Cluster of Excellence EXC 2052 - "Africa Multiple: reconfiguring African Studies"

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Public Lecture on “The Future Lives of Texts: Understanding Literary Transmission Processes”

25.11.2019 10 a.m.
Uni Bayreuth, Campus, NWIII, Room S135

Invitation to a Public Lecture on “The Future Lives of Texts: Understanding Literary Transmission Processes” by Prof Michael Steppat on Monday, 25th November 2019.

As part of their activities for the winter semester 2019, the Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence’s Postdoc Working Group “Shakespearean Pasts, African Futurities” issued an invitation to a public lecture and Q & A session on

The Future Lives of Texts: Understanding Literary Transmission Processes

Prof Michael Steppat

(Professor of English Literature, University of Bayreuth)


To make sense of textual transmission, we should think about the meaning of “text”. After Roland Barthes and Jacques Lacan some decades ago wrote about textuality, later critics have given more clarity to the notion of a social space affecting text. From such a perspective, the textual can also be understood as deeply political; the political itself may even turn out to be profoundly textual. But isn’t a dissemination of literary works in print or manuscript or in electronic form too innocuous for political categories? A further problem of understanding is a process described in the laws of information theory, according to which a message will be progressively garbled in transmission and mediation. This isolates past authors from later reception, so that the creative artist is not autonomous in relation to writing as product, and perhaps even as process. As experience shows, editions of literary works usually aim to render an author’s intentions, a key category in seeking to gain funding for such projects. Yet asking about intentions may result in neglecting a web of citations, references, and echoes beginning with the manuscript stage. Intentionally or not, transmission calls individual authorship into question, and should make us aware that dynamic social relations sustain authors through their future life in society.

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