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John Sanford, News Service: (650) 736-2151,

Debra Pounds, staff member, Humanities Center: , (650) 725-1219

Literary theorist Gayatri Chakrovorty Spivak to speak on "Human Rights and the Humanities"

Gayatri Chakrovorty Spivak, a leading literary theorist and the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University, is the final speaker scheduled for the 2000-01 season of the Presidential and Endowed Lectures in the Humanities and Arts.

Spivak's lecture, "Human Rights and the Humanities," is set for 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 12, in Room 290 of the Law School. At 4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, an open discussion featuring Spivak will be held in the Humanities Center Annex. The events are free and open to the public.

Spivak became a well-known figure in the academy after translating Jacques Derrida's De la grammatologie (1967) into English, which helped to cast a limelight on deconstructionist theory in the American academy. Of Grammatology was published in 1976.

Derrida, a French philosopher, is considered the father of deconstructionism, a controversial school of literary theory that maintains all readings of texts ≠ whether they're literary, historical, religious or philosophical in nature ≠ are subjective.

The theory holds that language can only refer to itself but does not represent any categorical truth about reality. Indeed, deconstructionism may be responsible for increasing the number of quotation marks around references to "truth" in critical writing about texts. Deconstructionists hold that various cultures and civilizations' definitions of reality usually lead to some form of ascendancy, such as domination of the environment or ethnic minorities. The theory has garnered as many critics as followers.

Spivak uses deconstructionism in her analysis of political and literary texts. She is known as a postcolonial theorist who has employed the tools of the Western enlightenment philosophical tradition to critique its legacies of patriarchy and imperialism.

Born in Calcutta, India, in 1942, Spivak attended the University of Calcutta. She earned a master's degree, in 1962, and doctorate, in 1967, from Cornell University. She has taught at Brown University, Stanford, the University of Texas-Austin, the University of California-Santa Cruz and Goethe-Universitšt in Frankfurt, to name a few. Before going to Columbia in 1991, she was the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.

Spivak has held fellowships at the National Humanities Institute, the Center for the Humanities at Wesleyan and the Humanities Research Center at the Australian National University, among others.

She is the author of In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics (1987), The Post-Colonial Critic: Interviews, Strategies, Dialogues (1990), Outside in the Teaching Machine (1993) and A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present (1999).


By John Sanford

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