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  • Author or Editor: Deniz Gundogan Ibrisim x
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Abstract

Both individual and public witnessing have always been integral to the process of living through catastrophe. Writing, and particularly literature, is a powerful form of witnessing. Reading José Saramago’s Blindness (1995) in tandem with Orhan Pamuk’s The While Caste (1985), this essay engages with the concept of witnessing, extending and deepening the way we might think about witnessing in a novel way in times of epidemics and pandemics. By reading these texts as narratives of plagues and epidemics at large, this essay aims to expand and challenge the association between witnessing and speech, between witnessing and sight through a critical attention to the role of affect, vitality, human and nonhuman materiality, and other communicative modes in these novels. While representing pandemics and epidemics, both Saramago and Pamuk, I argue, represent life, death, and the relation between self and other “beyond the human,” with powerful implications for our contemporary understanding of history, community, and politics. Thereby, these texts create dynamic, and unorthodox narrative strategy for relating to, connecting with, and narrating other and more-than-human worlds, affected by heteronomy amid contagion.

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In: Journal of World Literature