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East-West Dialogues: The Transferability of Concepts in the Humanities

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Edited By Christoph Bode, Michael O'Sullivan, Lukas Schepp and Eli Park Sorensen

This is an edited collection of essays drawn from collaborative events organized jointly by The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. The book focuses on how literary and cultural perspectives from different humanities academic environs in Asia and Europe might contribute to our understanding of the "transferability of concepts." Exploring ways in which these traditions may enter into new and productive collaborations, the book presents readings of a wide range of Western and Eastern writers, including Shakespeare, J.M. Coetzee, Yu Dafu. The book contains a virtual round table followed by four thematic sections – "Travels and Storytelling," "Translation and Transferability," "Historical Contexts and Transferability," and "Aesthetic Contexts and Transferability."

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Chapter 11: Literary Realism as a Political Concept: Anderson, Schmitt, Foucault and Lukács: Eli Park Sorensen

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Eli Park Sorensen

Literary Realism as a PoliticalConcept: Anderson, Schmitt, Foucaultand Lukács

One of the trends underlying some of the most spectacular political events in recent times, including the election of Donald Trump, Brexit, the rise of right-wing populism, authoritarian (and largely unanswered) demonstrations of power, along with violent crises and protests from Chile to Hong Kong, seems to be a steadily growing distance between the so-called ‘people’ and the ‘state.’ Meanwhile, extremist sentiments — such as racism, discrimination, ethno-nationalism, and fascism — are increasingly returning to the normative discourse of mainstream politics, often in the form of draconian immigration policies, the erection of walls and fences, border controls, and a general public acceptance of the need for protection and security at the expense of human rights. It would be tempting to suggest that what we are witnessing these days is the return of the specifically political: that is, fundamental questions about who we are, what is ours, our affiliations, the Other, enemies, principles, and values.

Without delving further into a discussion of contemporary political issues, I want to use this context as an opportunity to explore ways in which we might resituate and renegotiate the political significance of literary realism. “Realism,” Harry Shaw observes, seems to have “become not a form that can tell us about life in the modern world, but a form that can tell us nothing useful, and doesn’t even know it. In commentary after commentary, the realist novel proves most...

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