Wandering Kings and Travelling Tales in Borges

Poster for Wandering Kings and Travelling Tales in Borges
20 September 2019
SOAS University of London, Brunei Gallery, Room B 102


OWRI Creative Multilingualism and ERC Multilingual Locals, Significant Geographies present Wandering Kings and Travelling Tales in Borges with Professor Dominique Jullien

Stories of kings who leave their palaces to become ascetics loom large in the writings of Borges, who devoted several essays and a book to the most famous version of that story, the story of Buddha. The renunciation story appealed to Borges both for its traveling, adaptable and metamorphic qualities, and as a powerful expression of the perennial political conflict between power and authority.

The cross-cultural circulation of the king-and-ascetic paradigm interfaced with Borges’s transnational aesthetics (famously developed in the essay “The Argentine Writer and Tradition”), allowing him to speculate on the possibility of a theory of literature as “morphology” (a notion borrowed from Goethe) whereby a potentially infinite number of texts were generated by the transformation and circulation of a finite number of “archetypes”.

At the same time, the motif of apolitical withdrawal at the heart of the renunciation story also resonated deeply with Borges’s own political predicament. Drawing on my recent book, I propose to explore the relevance of the renunciation story both to our reading of Borges and to contemporary conversations about world literature as a mode of circulation and about the political power of storytelling.

Dominique Jullien is Professor of Comparative Literature and French Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Prior to joining UCSB, she was Professor of French at Columbia University until 2006. She has held visiting professorships at Saint Gallen University, Switzerland, and the Harvard Institute for World Literature. She holds a doctorate from Paris I-Sorbonne and is a Fellow of the Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris.

At UCSB she founded and directed the Graduate Center for Literary Research, which aims to enhance the experience of students and faculty by promoting interdisciplinary dialogues and encounters. Beginning in Fall 2019 she will chair the Comparative Literature program. Professor Jullien’s research centers on modern and contemporary fiction, with special focus on Marcel Proust and Jorge Luis Borges, on East-West relations, particularly Western Orientalism and the reception of the 1001 Nights in Western culture, and cognitive approaches to literature. Her most recent book is Borges, Buddhism and World Literature: a Morphology of Renunciation Tales (Palgrave, 2019).

 All welcome; booking is not required.

Poster for Wandering Kings and Travelling Tales in Borges