“Salman Rushdie as public intellectual” – paper from Rushdie conference, Lisbon 2013

My paper, ‘Salman Rushdie as public intellectual’, given at the conference: ‘Salman Rushdie in the 21st Century: “Swallowing a World”’, University of Lisbon, 7-9 November 2013 (see entry on this blog for 30 Nov 2013) is now on-line at: http://yatrarollason.info/files/Rushdieasintellectual.pdf

ABSTRACT:

The aim of this paper is to examine Salman Rushdie’s position across his career as a public intellectual, in the multiple senses expounded by Edward Said in Representations of the Intellectual (1994). Rushdie may be viewed as a paradigmatic example of precisely such a Saidian intellectual, in being engaged, critical, secular, and, to use Said’s significant term, ‘worldly’. While pre-eminently a novelist, he has never hesitated to intervene visibly on public issues, and his works of non-fiction constitute a significant portion of his oeuvre. The present paper, while not neglecting Rushdie’s fiction, examines his implicit and explicit conceptions of the role of the intellectual, as embodied in various key texts from his two essay collections, Imaginary Homelands and Step Across This Line, and in his recent memoir Joseph Anton. Consideration is given to the view held by some that the post-fatwa Rushdie has moved away from an oppositional intellectual stance as advocated by Said, the provisional conclusion to be offered being that such a critique does not necessarily reflect current political and global realities as perceived by a writer for whom worldliness is the essence of literature, whose defining attitude may be called libertarian, and who is no mere observer but a necessarily engaged participant in the face of today’s worldwide cultural battles.

Note added 3 March 2015:

This paper has now been published in India. Details (see also entry on this blog for 2 March 2015):

‘Salman Rushdie as Public Intellectual’, Journal of The Odisha Association For English Studies (Baleswar, India), Volume 5, Issue 1, 2015, pp. 63-77.

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