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Digital Dialogue
Digital Dialogue
Digital Dialogue 47: Narrative

Claire Colebrook, Edwin Earl Sparks Professor of English here at Penn State joins me for episode 47 of the Digital Dialogue. Claire received her doctorate from the University of Edinburgh and was a Professor of Modern Literary Theory at the University of Edinburgh before joining the faculty of English at Penn State.

Her work focuses on contemporary European philosophy, feminist theory, literary theory, contemporary music, dance and visual culture and political theory. Let me name just a few of her books to give you a sense of the range of her expertise: New Literary Histories, Manchester UP 1997, Ethics and Representation, Edinburgh Press 1999, Understanding Deleuze, Allen and Unwin 2003, Irony and the Work of Philosophy, Nebraska 2002 and Milton, Evil and Literary History, Continuum 2008. She is currently working on two book projects, one on vitalism and another on William Blake and aesthetics.

But she joins me on the Digital Dialogue today to discuss an article she published in the London Consortium in 2006 entitled Happiness, Death and the Meaning of Life. In fact, this article was recommended to me by a loyal listener to the digital dialogue, Dirk Felleman, who suggested that Claire would be a great guest on the Digital Dialogue. So, of course, I wanted to respond to Dirk’s deep engagement with the work we are doing on the Digital Dialogue, and I immediately extended an invitation to Claire, who has graciously accepted.


  • dirkusa says:

    there is a lot of wonderful content here to respond to but for now I just want to thank Chris and Claire for making the time and effort to do this work and to share it. There are all too few chances available to experience the life affirming/quickening spark of good ideas/conversation and I’m most grateful for this perspicuous reminder.

  • Thanks, Dirk. Whatever sparks you hear here were made possible by your sage suggestion that I invite Claire onto the Digital Dialogue. Thanks for that suggestion.

  • dirkusa says:

    this has been one of the joys of the internet, as you know not so long ago one was limited to making such connections in one's head or in a text that few, if any, people would read but now one can actually bring authors/ideas into dialogue (which I would say has been, and will be, the means/working out of meaning and not "narrative", some day perhaps we will have dialogical/response studies at universities).
    There are some resonances here with the manifesto of Reality Hunger:

  • Another refreshing talk. Thank you.
    Negotiating the poison and cure e.g. building up in muscles in an ultra-marathon as a new model narrative for life, seems fine. Girard measured civilization in terms of its ability to procrastinate the stoning and the scapegoating that always seems to happen in the end. I am not sure whether or not we now seem to have done with that so called old or organic narrative model full of indeterminate or dead fragments of what was initially intended. This might also be (just) another difference in degree but not in form or kind. Function still follows structure, or, as always probably, new generations of (old, like me) students will challenge that status quo and let any structure follow function, which is how all those new applications and TV-series are produced. It must sell after all, so the attention economy, not the old economy, really directs us. I believe it is a question of how institutions counteract that while they still can, leading the way. At the most structural level, that may boil down to dependent rejection instead of independent confirmation, the worst instead of the best. And that structural level is cultural, when aspiring philosophers (Derrida et al) set their own standards as the new ones when the tide is changing. Postmodernism allowed messing with the Truth and I know those who are post traumatically suffering from its consequences. Not leading in the Modern- nor in the Postmodern paradigm, but following now is the de-facto standard at e.g. Twitter, Facebook and Wikipedia. It keeps received fragments from dying in a most vital and vibrant way. When authenticity is gone, people feel that and instantly follow others who do not seem to have lost it (literally). Although we can never fully assimilate what is abandoned by death, we can accommodate each other in this manner to assimilate the other’s needs and possibly, if we are lucky (happy!), our own in return.
    Thank you again for discussing these subjects so lively.

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