LLEA Speaker Series: Connecting People

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The authors featured in the Spring 2021 speaker series represent the languages and cultures taught in the Department of Languages and Literatures of Europe and the Americas in wider European, Eurasian and global contexts, establishing ties between people across time and space and between academic fields within CALL programs. They will sweep us from a war-torn country at the intersections between Europe and Asia on through vast shifting Post-Soviet smellscapes and cover topics ranging from nineteenth century Hawaii’s appropriation of the Ancient Mediterranean idiom to representations of Islam in modern French prose. Below, you will find the schedule and abstracts of presentations.

Join us on Zoom from 3:00 to 4:00 pm


Meeting ID: 997 9678 2291

Passcode: 167755

January 25. Dr. Peter Orte, UH Manoa. “Akram Aylisli’s Farewell, Aylis: a prophetic response to the distortion of history on the border between Europe and Asia.” 

February 22. Prof. Hans J. Rindisbacher, Pomona College. Shifting Smellscapes: Cultural-Historical Observations Through the Nose.”

March 8. Dr. Daniel Harris-McCoy, UH Mānoa, Mariko Jurcsak, Notre Dame. “Building a Classical Dictionary in Hawaiian.”

April 12. Dr. Louis Bousquet, UH Mānoa. “Islam in Michel Houellebecq’s novels: a French story.”


Dr. Peter Orte. “Akram Aylisli’s Farewell, Aylis: a prophetic response to the distortion of history on the border between Europe and Asia.” 

Akram Aylisli’s Farewell, Aylis: a non-traditional novel in three parts, the style of which combines elements of Socialist realism, Middle Eastern and Persian tales, and social satire, represents the most profound literary critique of how nationalism has been institutionalized in post-Soviet historiography and literature in Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic and now an independent country located in the Transcaucasian region at the cross-roads of Eastern Europe and West Asia. Most often identified as a writer of Azerbaijani “village prose,” Aylisli differs from his better-known Russian counterparts in that he has chosen to address taboo histories of intercommunal violence that haunt his nation’s psyche rather than to promote chauvinistic images of national purity, a stance that has given rise to a campaign of political persecution against the 83-year-old author in Azerbaijan. This lecture will explore how Aylisli’s literary evocations of the land of his childhood respond to the distortions of historical and artistic truth in the wake of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by showing how these distortions result in the falsification of identity, lack of spirituality, and the devaluation of land that is supposed to be a source of national pride. These are works written in a prophetic literary tradition and—no matter how little known—contain an important meaning for the larger world today.

Prof. Hans J. Rindisbacher. “Shifting Smellscapes: Cultural-Historical Observations Through the Nose.”

Olfactory perception, the diverse manifestations of the sense of smell, has come into its own in scholarly and scientific research only relatively recently. But the increase of knowledge across a wide range of disciplines has been dramatic, and olfactory studies, from anthropology to history, literature, popular culture, and on to the biomedical, neuroscientific, and cognitive fields now abound. Moreover, commercially, there is ongoing creativity and growth in the cosmetics and perfume industry.

This presentation references key characteristics of olfaction; explains the concept of the smellscape; provides examples from various national literary contexts – German, French, Italian, etc.; and presents the changing smellscapes of the Soviet Union and contemporary Russia in the 1990’s as a salient real-life case study, when the country underwent a massive political, cultural, and economic restructuring.

Dr. Daniel Harris-McCoy and Mariko Jurcsak. “Building a Classical Dictionary in Hawaiian.”

 A substantial amount of material relating to the Ancient Mediterranean World appeared in the Hawaiian language newspapers of the 19th century—material intended to serve the religious, educational, cultural, and aesthetic interests of their readers. In this presentation, we will explain how we have used these newspapers to build an English-Hawaiian glossary of terms relating to the Ancient Mediterranean. We will discuss our methods and preliminary observations; how the glossary can be used by researchers interested in the reception of classical culture in Hawaiʻi; and our hopes for how the project might develop in the future.

Dr. Louis Bousquet. “Islam in Michel Houellebecq’s novels: a French story.”

Michel Houellebecq, France’s most popular contemporary novelist and poet, has developed
throughout the years a paradoxical relation towards Islam. He first described the Muslim religion
in his books as the remnant of an antiquated religious order filled with superstition and backward
principle on its way to oblivion. He then used Islamic terrorism to denounce Western unbridled
hedonism, lack of morals, and appetite for self-destruction. Finally, in his recent dystopic novel
Submission, Houellebecq foresees an opportunistic path that merges Islam and capitalism to
potentially benefit his character, the ill-fated homunculus. In this presentation, we will try to
better understand Houellebecq’s changing views towards Islam following his difficult
relationship with national and international Muslim associations. We will discuss the surprising
connection between Islamist terrorist attacks in Bali and Paris and Houellebecq’s opus. We will
finally illustrate the influence of Houellebecq’s literature on French society and politics.