Literature and Religious Fundamentalism

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Tabish Khair


Aarhus University


DKK 799,582




Monograph Fellowships


The project will examine and show how fundamentalism (with the focus on religious fundamentalisms) is essentially a textual matter - a mode of reading - and how literature qua literature cultivates a mode of reading that resists this tendency. At the core of this examination will run a question common to both religion and literature: How does one think in language about a world that cannot be fully represented in language, more so as language and this world outside language are mutually definitive?


The project will lead to not just useful ways in which a trend towards fundamentalism can be diagnosed, and even remedied, but also to a re-engagement with what literature does and, through it, with what the humanities can do. It will re-examine and at times controvert definitions of literature and current critical positions - many of which are dominant in many other fields of the humanities too. This will lead to a redefinition of the nature and purpose of literature and an engagement with such vital and topical matters as the role of the book, the effects of digital reading, the 'death of the author', the notion of 'universality', etc. In short, it will lead to a redefinition of literature qua literature and provide us with tools to tackle fundamentalism.


As this is a study in the field of literary studies, it will concentrate on close reading and contextual and historical exegesis, which it will aim at a series of texts - informed critically by an engagement with the theoretical works by authors ranging from Plato to Roland Barthes, Judith Butler and Byung-Chul Han. Looking at a series of major literary and religious texts, it will examine the similarities and differences between literary and doctrinaire readings, and develop it into a fresh and pertinent definition of literature. The project is intended to lead to a book of around 250 pages.

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