February 24, 2014
You may know GAYATRI CHAKRAVORTY SPIVAK (born 1942) as a pathbreaking and formidable writer, critic, and translator — the patron saint of postcolonial theory, even. But I know her as the vigilant, exacting, funny, supportive teacher who (my sophomore year at the University of Texas at Austin) exploded my worldview. Her masterworks — including In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics (1987), Outside in the Teaching Machine (1993), and An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization (2012) — helped transform the field of Comparative Literature from a niche guild populated by ascetic types into a powerhouse field of multicultural, transnational, politically wised-up cultural studies programs investigating the social-justice realities lurking in the bowels of an empire’s library. Her translation of Derrida’s Of Grammatology left an enduring mark on late 20th century intellectual history. As the photo here suggests, Spivak is intense to the point of ferocity; her lectures were momentous. She changed my life, and I am forever in her debt.
READ MORE about members of the Anti-Anti-Utopian Generation (1934-43).