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Calibrations: Reading for the Social

Ato Quayson
Series: Public Worlds
Volume: 12
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 224
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttt71n
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  • Book Info
    Calibrations
    Book Description:

    Ato Quayson uses a method of reading he calls calibrations: a reading of literature with what lies beyond it as a way of understanding structures of transformation, process, and contradiction that inform both literature and society. He surveys texts ranging from Bob Marley lyrics, Toni Morrison’s work, Walter Benjamin’s Theses on the Philosophy of History, and Althusser’s reflections on political economy.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9303-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Mimesis, Dialectics, and the Bounding of Analytic Fields
    (pp. xi-xl)

    This book is about close reading. It is about a practice of close reading that oscillates rapidly between domains—the literary-aesthetic, the social, the cultural, and the political—in order to explore the mutually illuminating heterogeneity of these domains when taken together. It does this not to assert the often repeated postmodernist view that there is nothing outside the text, but to outline a reading practice I callcalibrations: a form of close reading of literature with what lies beyond it as a way of understanding structures of transformation, process, and contradiction that inform both literature and society. The method...

  5. 1 Literature, Anthropology, and History in Ghosh′s In an Antique Land
    (pp. 1-29)

    Consider the words of Grace Paley in her introduction toSoulstorm(1974), a collection of short stories by Clarice Lispector: ″It is not unusual for writers to be children of foreigners. There′s something about the two languages engaging one another in the child′s ears that makes her want to write things down. She will want to say sentences over and over again, probably in the host or dominant tongue. There will also be a certain amount of syntactical confusion which, if not driven out of her head by heavy schooling, will free the writer to stand a sentence on its...

  6. 2 Social Imaginaries in Transition: Culture Heroism and the Genres of Everyday Life
    (pp. 30-55)

    Our point of departure in this chapter is Charles Taylor′s comments on the link between social imaginaries and alternative modernities:

    The number one problem of modern social science has from the beginning been modernity itself. I mean that historically unprecedented amalgam of new practices and institutional forms (science, technology, industrial production, urbanization); of new ways of living (individualism, secularization, instrumental rationality); and new forms of malaise (alienation, meaninglessness, a sense of impending social dissolution).

    In our day, the problem needs to be posed again from a new angle: is there a single phenomenon here, or do we need to speak...

  7. 3 African Postcolonial Relations through a Prism of Tragedy
    (pp. 56-75)

    As we saw from the previous chapter, there are various ways in which ordinary people attempt to convert the state for social use via an idiom of privatization. This involves an elaborate discursive ensemble that includes urban myths and legends about negotiation of the public sphere, and the various practices of gift exchange by which people attempt to coalesce the scale of kinship and social ties with that of the bureaucratic state apparatus. I also noted the degree to which politicians attempt to conceptually assimilate the state to their own persons by appropriating tropes of culture heroism that have notions...

  8. 4 Symbolization Compulsions: Freud, African Literature, and South Africa′s Process of Truth and Reconciliation
    (pp. 76-98)

    I want to pose in this chapter a set of questions to do with nation and narration. As is frequently remarked in African literary studies, there is often a cross-mapping of literature onto national politics. Early anthologies of African literature made this point an implicit organizing principle by dividing up the literature into ″national″ contexts. Scholars such as Neil Lazarus (1990) and Ato Sekyi-Otu (1996), with a more theoretical motivation and drawing on Fanon, have tried to provide a framework by which these connections could be addressed more rigorously. All this served to relate African literary criticism to what might...

  9. 5 Disability and Contingency
    (pp. 99-124)

    This chapter focuses on disability studies and the representation of disabled people in literature. In turning to such literary representations, I continue the methodological predisposition of reading literature for social analysis, further illustrating the kinds of theoretical calibrations central to the readings being expounded in this book. But here a difference in focus has to be noted from the outset. Whereas in the previous chapters the theoretical calibration had to do with aligning a discursive genre or paradigm (e.g., tragedy, urban myths, literature of the ex-centric) to a reading of various dimensions of the African postcolony, here the analysis centers...

  10. 6 Literature and the Parables of Time
    (pp. 125-152)

    Saint Augustine′s oft-quoted conundrum about time is recognizable in the quotidian round of everyday life. The clock is not always the best way to tell time′s passage, even though the most universal and convenient.¹ The passage of time is measured not just by the hands of the clock or annually in birthdays, but by registering impressions of seemingly mundane events such as the subtle furrows on one′s brow or on that of another, the unexpected loss of breath on climbing an accustomed stair, and the sudden encounter with long-lost acquaintances who suddenly bring back a flood of memory of our...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 153-164)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 165-174)
  13. Index
    (pp. 175-179)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 180-180)