This event has now finished.
  • Date and time: Monday 22 May 2023, 5.30pm to 7pm
  • Location: In-person only
    Room BS/005 - Bowland auditorium, Berrick Saul Building, Campus West, University of York (Map)
  • Audience: Open to alumni, staff, students, the public
  • Admission: Free admission, booking not required

Event details

In her autobiographical essay “If Only”, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak complicates the subject of enunciation by dwelling upon the connection that exists between the terms “single”, “singularity”, and “together”. Spivak argues that her status as a divorced “single” woman without a male partner has put her beyond the pale of reproductive heteronormativity and has therefore made her life story “singular”.

However, in her autobiography, she identifies similar violations of patriarchal identity norms in the life trajectories of a number of her female ancestors whom she recognizes as her foremothers. As we learn from the autobiography, each of the foremothers that Spivak mentions differed from the norm differently. Each of them, therefore, was singular in her own right. But this intergenerational repetition of singularity also establishes a pattern and ties Spivak with her “deviant” female ancestors in a bond of togetherness.

In other words, Spivak differs from each of her foremothers in the way she deviates from the normative, but this very act of deviation that gives her identity its singularity also makes it a repetition of the lives of her foremothers. As Spivak notes: “I am their repetition, with a difference. We are single, singular and together”. In this talk, Sayan Chattopadhyay tries to unpack the complexity of this idea of singularity as repetition of difference in Spivak’s text and the ways in which it problematises the autobiographical convention of a unitary subject of enunciation.

About the speaker

Sayan Chattopadhyay is Associate Professor of English in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He received his doctorate degree from the University of Cambridge in 2014. He served as the DAAD guest professor at the University of Heidelberg in 2022 and was the recipient of the 2010–2013 Smuts Cambridge International Scholarship. His research has been primarily in the area of Indian middle-class self-fashioning and its literary manifestations. He has published a number of articles in leading scholarly journals. He is also the author of the book Being English: Indian Middle Class and the Desire for Anglicization (2022).