Comparative Literature | LITERATURE AND EXILE
C611 | 1244 | Ilinca Johnston


Professor Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston
Tuesdays, 4-6:30 pm BH 333

Exile is a state of homelessness, estrangement and displacement, "
strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience" as
Edward Said wrote in his essay, "Reflections on Exile."  Literary
history, however, teems with famous exiles:  Isaiah, Ovid, Dante,
Petrarch, Voltaire, Byron, Shelley, Victor Hugo, Heinrich Heine, Oscar
Wilde and Henry James, James Joyce, Joseph Conrad, T.S. Eliot, Ezra
Pound, Samuel Beckett, Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald,
Thomas Mann, Henry Miller, Eugene Ionesco, Gombrowitz, E.M. Cioran,
Milan Kundera, Alexander Solzhenitsyn.  The list could go on and
extends to the postcolonial writers of our century.  How is it then
that exile, this state of "terminal loss," as Said called it in his
essay, has produced so many famous writers?  How can an environment of
deprivation, suffering and solitude be propitious to good writing?  Or
is it, on the contrary, a pre-condition for good writing, the "reality
of experience" which Joyce's alter ego, Stephen Dedalus, thought
crucial to his growth as an artist?

This course explores the ambivalent, paradoxical relation between
exile and literary creativity.  Given that exile is such a major
historical phenomenon of the 20th century, affecting not only artists
and intellectuals but also millions of people all over the world, this
course will focus on a number of 20th century writers from Eastern
Europe (Conrad, Nabokov, Cioran, Kundera, Brodsky) and the post-
colonial world (Said, Achebe, Naipaul, Rushdie) and will study the
effects of political and linguistic exile in their work.

Course requirements:  two classroom presentations (one oral/ one
written); a classroom presentation of the paper project; a 20-25 page
paper.