Artefacts of Writing: Ideas of the State and Communities of Letters from Matthew Arnold to Xu Bing

Artefacts of Writing: Ideas of the State and Communities of Letters from Matthew Arnold to Xu Bing

by Peter D. McDonald


View All Available Formats & Editions
Usually ships within 6 days


Some forms of literature interfere with the workings of the literate brain, posing a challenge to readers of all kinds, including professional literary critics. In Artefacts of Writing, Peter D. McDonald argues they pose as much of a challenge to the way states conceptualise language, culture, and community. Drawing on a wealth of evidence, from Victorian scholarly disputes over the identity of the English language to the constitutional debates about its future in Ireland, India, and South Africa, and from the quarrels over the idea of culture within the League of Nations in the interwar years to UNESCO's ongoing struggle to articulate a viable concept of diversity, McDonald brings together a large ensemble of legacy writers, including T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Rabindranath Tagore, putting them in dialogue with each other and with the policy-makers who shaped the formation of modern states and the history of internationalist thought from the 1860s to the 1940s. In the second part of the book, he reflects on the continuing evolution of these dialogues, showing how a varied array of more contemporary writers from Amit Chaudhuri, J. M. Coetzee, and Salman Rushdie to Antjie Krog, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, and Es'kia Mphahlele cast new light on a range of questions concerning education, literacy, human rights, translation, indigenous knowledge, and cultural diversity that have preoccupied UNESCO since 1945.

At once a novel contribution to institutional and intellectual history and an innovative exercise in literary and philosophical analysis, Artefacts of Writing affords a unique perspective on literature's place at the centre of some of the most fraught, often lethal public controversies that defined the long-twentieth century and that continue to haunt us today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780198725152
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 12/12/2017
Pages: 328
Product dimensions: 9.30(w) x 6.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Peter D. McDonald, Professor of English and Related Literature, University of Oxford and Fellow, St Hugh's College

Peter D. McDonald was born in Cape Town in 1964 and educated in South Africa and England. He writes on literature, the modern state and the freedom of expression; the history of writing systems, cultural institutions and publishing; multilingualism, translation and interculturality; and on the limits of literary criticism. His publications include British Literary Culture and Publishing Practice, 1888-1914 (1997), Making Meaning: 'Printers of the Mind' and Other Essays by D. F. McKenzie (2002), edited with Michael Suarez, and The Literature Police: Apartheid Censorship and its Cultural Consequences (2009). He is a Fellow of St Hugh's College and Professor of English and Related Literature at the University of Oxford.

Table of Contents

Part I: 1867-1945
1. Oxford at the Crossroads: England and the world beyond
2. T. S. Eliot vs. the League and UNESCO
3. 'Independence, Dependence, and Interdependence Day': Finnegans Wake and the Modern State
Part 2: 1946-2014
Prologue: The 'C' in UNESCO: A Very Short Introduction
4. Notes toward a Vagabond Humanism: Mphahlele's Tagore/Rabindrânâth's B=auls
5. Against State Literacy: J. M. Coetzee vs. the Novel
6. Beyond Translation: Antjie Krog vs. the 'Mother Tongue'
7. Against Naturalization: Arvind Krishna Mehrotra and the 'Interplay of Languages'
8. Beyond Multiculturalism: Tagore . . . Joyce . . . Rushdie . . . Chaudhuri
Postscript: Between Sky and Ground - The Art of Xu Bing

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews