Event: MLA Symposium
Insects form by far the most diverse group within the animal kingdom, and yet most authors tend to exclude them from the animal metaphors they use. They belong to the radical other, the tout autre, not only regarding humans, but regarding animals as well.
The twentieth century provided a considerable renewal in our literary relationship with insects. Kafka’s Metamorphosis, DH Lawrence’s The Ladybird, Woolfe’s imagery of butterflies and ants, Sartre’s The Flies, al-Hakim’s The Fate of a Cockroach, to name but a few, elevated insects to the rank of a truly philosophical and literary figure, even onstage, on an international scale. Yet, does this swarm of literary insects make them any less alienating, unsettling or monstrous?
Insects question borders: they are around us in our homes and they are highly responsible for our survival, yet ideas of domestication or cohabitation with insects generate revulsion. These marginalized figures embody various principles and critiques formulated within postcolonial, queer, and even space studies. The insect metaphor highlights capitalism and imperialism by drawing attention to oppressive ideologies that separate communities. Cultures and communities may, in return, reclaim these metaphors, such as the cockroach in Mexican literature. Finally, they are items of fascination at the frontier between the human and non-human.
This seminar considers insects as elements of writing innovations, especially within the writing of identity. Following Hollingsworth’s Poetics of the Hive and Eric Brown’s Insect Poetics, the seminar renews the exploration of insect poetics through a comparative corpus of French and English Literature and Theatre.
Each participant will be required to provide a 500 word abstract before 30 September 2020 and a fifteen minute presentation in June 2021 in Glasgow.