The Graduate Center for Literary Research will host a lecture by Marina Warner entitled “Sanctuary and Literature: Words on the Move” from 4-6 p.m. in the McCune Conference Room (HSSB 6020).
In the present refugee crisis, millions of people are being driven from their homes by war, religious conflict, racial ostracism, famine, and poverty. Can literature help? Stripped of material possessions, refugees, migrants, and ‘arrivants’ still own their minds which are filled with memories, stories, and knowledge. Can the cultural baggage of the imagination, the stories that displaced people carry in their heads, provide ways of establishing connection with their new circumstances? Can stories, inspired by the cultures they belong to, overcome barriers of language and custom, help them relate to the new place of arrival and develop a place of refuge where they belong? Marina Warner will explore how the role of the imagination, expressed in literary forms, can provide threads which may be woven into the fabric of belonging. She will look at travelling texts, such as the animal tales known in Europe as Aesop’s Fables, the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Arabian Nights, and explore these literary migrants in relation to the history of legal sanctuary. She will also draw on the experience of www.storiesintransit.org, a refugee project in Palermo in Sicily, to illuminate this burning issue of our time, and the relationship between culture, equality, and citizenship.