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Alum talk by Dr. Katie Vater (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee): "Staging the Avant-Garde: Figurations of the Authorial Self in Enrique Vila-Matas's Kassel no invita la lógica."

Monday, October 1 at 4:30pm to 6:00pm

Burrowes Building, 227

Enrique Vila-Matas’s Kassel no invita la lógica (2014) explicitly dramatizes the figure of the author as a cultural artifact in its representation of Vila-Matas’s real-life participation in dOCUMENTA(13) in Kassel, Germany in 2012. Vila-Matas was part of a performance art project, in reality an “artist placement scheme,” titled Chorality, On Retreat: A Writer’s Residency, which required him to write in public view in a Chinese restaurant. Setting Chorality in a space associated with commercial obligations, as well as asking the authors to connect directly with the public, activated notions of the author as a cultural product to be consumed. The representation of this experience in Kassel no invita la lógica by Vila-Matas’s fictionalized autobiographical narrator depicts participation in Chorality as a threat to his identity as a charismatic and avant-garde artist, given that those identities have been historically determined by avoiding direct associations with commerce and maintaining art in a sacrosanct realm distinct from life. I argue that the novel itself becomes a response to the challenge Chorality posed to his avant-garde identity, as it creates an opportunity for Vila-Matas to scale his experience at dOCUMENTA through a concrete object, and thus better control the reception of his own authorial persona. Unsatisfied with the public display of himself as a writer at dOCUMENTA, Vila-Matas turns to literature to emplot his story in a way that returns him to a more traditional author- reader relationship. As he rejects the mutual interaction between author and reader that Chorality establishes, the narrator bases his own relational model on the author’s domination of the reader, asserting his own authority and control in the process. 

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