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Ctrl Z: Undoing Narratives

The proposed project seeks to explore how retraction and recantation take shape in experimental writing of the 20th and 21st Century. Its guiding motif is the palinode: a literary-philosophical form used to reject one’s own previous writing. Out of this conjunction of the poetic and the philosophical, I hope to build a conceptual framework for two types of literary retraction. The first type is motivated by fear and thus serves to deflect retribution. The second, by contrast, aspires to self-effacement: it openly acknowledges errors and second thoughts, regardless of personal interests or outside influence. Despite apparently diverging motives, however, the two types are dialectically entangled and mutually reinforcing: humiliation (or its avoidance) is never without the effects of humility, nor is humility ever free from self-serving impulses. The project will culminate in a monograph which centres on this dynamism. Its aim is to probe various literary instances of the palinodal – whether withdrawals, recantations, reformulations, self-censorship or cancel cultures. Through close readings of various texts – among them Beckett’s torture plays, Marlene van Niekerk’s second-person narratives, Joyce’s litotic experiments and Antjie Krog’s apophatic autofiction – the project teases out the artistic and political ambivalence that underpins the literature of undoing.


Fellows involved in this project

Iso Lomso Fellow
South Africa

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Is any information on this page incorrect or outdated? Please notify Ms. Nel-Mari Loock at [email protected].