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Michaela Hulstyn on Unselfing in Abdelkebir Khatibi

Venue: Pigott Hall, Room 216, Stanford main campus

Hosts: Department of French and Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages.

Speaker: Michaela Hulstyn is a fifth-year PhD candidate in the Department of French at Stanford, finishing a dissertation on the phenomenon of 'unselfing' as it manifests itself in literary texts including but not limited to ones by Khatibi, Cixous, Valéry, Delbo, and Michaux. 

Abstract: Recent scholarship in the domain of cognitive psychology suggests that the languages we speak impact our sense of time, space, and self. Looking at Abdelkebir Khatibi's Amour bilingue as a test case, I argue that the persistent vertigo Khatibi articulates in the work can be understood as the mental experience of a love life lived between two languages—French and Arabic. For Khatibi, the fracturing of a unified self into multiple, language-specific selves allows him to rehabilitate the notion of "plural subjectivity" and harness its political potential. In my work, test cases such as these exemplify the ways in which literature and cognitive science can play a mutually illuminating role in our understanding of consciousness, memory, and intersubjective relationships, as they reveal themselves in language.