Histcon.se Time, Memory and Representation Tid, Minne, Representation

A Multidisciplinary Program on Transformations in Historical Consciousness

Ett mångdisciplinärt forskningsprogram om historiemedvetandets förvandlingar

Stefan Helgesson

Professor, English Department, Stockholm University


B. 1966. Docent in Comparative literature, Uppsala University. PhD in Literature from Uppsala University in 1999. STINT Post-doc 2003-5 at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg. Between 2000 and 2006 co-organiser of the project “Literature and Literary History in Global Contexts” (VR). Individual project between 2007 and 2010, “Inventing World Literature” (VR). In 2009 director of SALT at Uppsala University. Since 2010 lecturer in the English Department at Stockholm University.

Ongoing research

In his still ongoing work within the program, Helgesson has analyzed the figuration of different temporalities Brazilian and South African narratives from the period around 1900. His main case studies have been the war documentary Os sertões (1902) by Euclides da Cunha, the fictions The Story of an African Farm (1883) and Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland (1897) by Olive Schreiner, and the historical novel Chaka (1910/1925) by Thomas Mofolo, all of which thematise time – in the service of collective memory – in complex and often contradictory ways.

These case studies have also prompt a theoretical intervention: whereas the notion of multiple temporalities is often taken as a given in current postcolonial scholarship (Chakrabarty 2000; Mbembe 2001; Attwell 2005; Bannerjee 2006; Wenzel 2009) theorists are also frequently critical precisely against what is seen as the the colonial ascription of temporal difference (Fabian 1983; Chakrabarty 2000; Lazarus 2011). As a way to move beyond this antinomy, Helgesson suggests that one needs to radicalize and historicize the notion of multiple temporalities. This more strictly theoretical discussion will appear as an article in History and Theory in 2014 or 2015.

A central purpose of this project has therefore been to investigate if literary narratives, in their singular conjoining of different temporalities (or rhythms, following Lefebvre), provide a privileged means of interrogating what Mbembe has called the entanglement of durées in the postcolony. Through close readings of Cunha, Schreiner and Mofolo, Helgesson has engaged – on the narrative level – with a wide range of temporal modes, including Spencerian evolutionism, national time, the time of the everyday, sacred and apocalyptic time, and the time of the catastrophic event.

The investigation will conclude by looking at the primary texts from a reception-critical perspective, thereby problematising how the meaning of their narrative temporalities have shifted through time. Several results have been published already or are forthcoming as peer-reviewed articles and chapters. In the fullness of time, the project will also result in a short monograph.

Publications relating to the project

”Radicalizing Temporal Difference: Postcolonial Theory, Cultural Relativism and Literary Time”, History and Theory (forthcoming)

”Rebellion, Literature, and Colonial Time”. Malgorzata Milcarek (ed.), Rage, Rebellion and Revolution. Bern: Peter Lang. Forthcoming in 2014.

“World Literature and the Time of Translation”. Paulo Lemos Horta (ed.), The Creation of World Literature. New York: NYU Press. Forthcoming in 2014.

“Unsettling Fictions: Generic Instability and Colonial Time”. Anders Cullhed and Lena Rydholm (eds.), True Lies Worldwide: Fictionality in Global Contexts. Berlin: De Gruyter. 261-273.

“Litteraturvetenskapen och det kosmopolitiska begäret”. Tidskrift för litteraturvetenskap 2013.1: 81-94.

“Ödemarkens språk: Euclides da Cunha, João Guimarães Rosa och översättningens resa”. Annette Årheim et al. (red.), Resor i tid och rum. Halmstad: Makadam, 2013. 154-165.

“Ambivalent Evolution: Olive Schreiner, Euclides da Cunha and the (De)Colonising of History”. Andrus Ers and Hans Ruin (ed.), Rethinking Time. Stockholm: Södertörn Philosophical Studies, 2011. 217-226.

Produced by MarsApril