<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> HKU Talks by Professor Wlad Godzich
 
   

 

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Public Lecture
October 18, 2012
Rm CRT-7.45, Run Run Shaw Tower,
Centennial Campus, HKU
Reception at 5pm; lecture at 5:30pm

Modernism and the Problem of the Unfinished Novel
In “The Storyteller,” Walter Benjamin places the need for an ending at the heart of his famous distinction between a story, which can always be continued, and a novel, which “cannot hope to take the smallest step beyond that limit at which it invites the reader to a divinatory realization of the meaning of life by writing ‘Finis.’” At the same time, the very urgency of this need for an ending suggests a resistance to closure deeply embedded in the novel genre. It could even be argued that the novel genre depends on this threat of endlessness, since the need to constantly overcome it forces novelists of succeeding generations to generate and regenerate the forms that “will suffice” to communicate the transcendent truths of their cultures. As the narrative forms of the past cease to feel authentic when applied to the present, so new forms must be generated and familiar modes of incompletion must be overcome in new and unfamiliar ways. The question this historical process poses is whether it is inherent to the novel or whether it is characteristic of Modernism.