Renowned literary scholar speaks to faculty, staff, alumni, students, and community members about what it means to teach and learn from students
Dr. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, University Professor at Columbia and major figure in literary studies, visited Houston on 29-30 January, delivering her talk “Lessons from My Travels” to an audience of more than 400 people from UH, Rice, and the Houston community. Spivak’s presentation blended humor, narratives about her own travel and teaching, and her philosophical work. As her talk focused on events in her life, she came back, again and again, to one point: literary study is necessary for ethical development. Literature requires us to use our imagination, and our imaginations are necessary for the slow cooking of the soul needed for social justice.
Bringing Dr. Spivak to UH was a major event for not only the English Department but also the newly-emerged Empire Studies Collective, which was also active in bringing renowned Kenyan author and activist Ngugi wa Thiong’o to campus last semester.
And the importance of the event was not lost to audience members. Seated in the audience were not only graduate students, but undergraduates, students from Rice University, and various members of the Houston community. English Ph.D candidate Samantha Lay enthused about the lecture, “This is an incredible opportunity to see so remarkable a figure. I don’t know when I’d ever get an opportunity to do this again.”
The following day, students and faculty in Empire Studies were in for a further treat when Spivak joined them for a smaller lunch and discussion. Focused on her publications, specifically four texts which dramatized different stages of her writing career, Spivak spoke about the impetus for her work and answered questions from people in the audience. Afterward, she graciously met with students and signed copies of books. English Ph.D. student Allie Faden appreciated the event, noting “while both days we were able to hear her speak were beneficial in a general sense and entirely interesting, for me there was personal gain in having attended both days of the event toward completing a difficult project I have struggled greatly with.”
Special thanks for the events go to the UH Department of English; UH Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; the UH Department of Modern and Classical Languages; the El Paso Lecture Series; and the Rice University Center for the Study of Women, gender, and Sexuality.
For more information about Empire Studies in the UH English Department, visit: http://empirestudies.net/