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IPP KNL | Dr. Simon Cooke (University of Edinburgh): "Forms of Secrecy: Espionage and the Modernist Literary Imagination"

IPP 20th Anniversary Keynote Lecture Series


Jun 15, 2022 from 10:00 to 12:00 (Europe/Berlin / UTC200)


GCSC (MFR) & Online

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The emergence and development of modernism shares the day with the multinational establishment of intelligence agencies, the evolution of technologies of surveillance, and the rise of the figure of the spy as an emblematic popular hero. While spy fiction and the dialectic between fiction and history has been much explored – and will be partly in focus here – the relation of the politics of espionage with the literary imagination more widely, and with modernist aesthetics, in particular, remains intriguingly open to new approaches. Secrecy is pervasively and variously at issue in modernism, from the shades of spy fiction in Conrad's The Secret Agent and Under Western Eyes, to the secret self-divulged by what Milan Kundera calls the 'fantastic espionage' of interior monologue, to the hermeneutic 'code-breaking' sometimes associated with practices of reading modernism. And from Elizabeth Bowen to Samuel Beckett to Muriel Spark, many writers associated with modernist experimentation have been double agents in literature and espionage, as writers with experience in secret service. This lecture explores what is at stake in such double agency. Introducing 'the secret' as a key concept in literary and cultural studies, and the world of political intelligence as a significant context for the literary history of the long twentieth century, it explores the ways in which, for a range of modernist as well as popular writers, espionage can be read, formally and thematically, as a 'secret sharer' – both a double and an antagonist – of the literary imagination.


// Dr. Simon Cooke is a lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of "Travellers' Tales of Wonder: Chatwin, Naipaul, Sebald" (EUP 2013), which emerged from his doctoral research as an IPPler at Justus Liebig University Giessen (2006-2010), where he was one of the IPP co-ordinators (2009-2010).


Please, register here for Dr. Simon Cooke's Keynote Lecture (in person or online)