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ULM faculty presents at South Atlantic Modern Language Association Convention

Published January 4, 2016

Dr. Jana Giles, associate professor of English at the University of Louisiana Monroe, recently traveled to a regional conference to present her original research on modernist literature.

Giles attended the South Atlantic Modern Language Association Convention in Durham, North Carolina, in November 2015. There, she presented a paper on the modernist writer Joseph Conrad, entitled “Language, Nature, and the Other: Conrad’s Avant-Garde Sublime in Typhoon.”

Extolled as one of the best sea tales ever written, Typhoon is a novella published in 1900, shortly after Conrad published his most famous work, Heart of Darkness. In it, Captain MacWhirr captain navigates a steam ship through a typhoon in the South China Seas, and averts racial conflict between the European crew and Chinese coolies on their way home from overseas labor.

Giles discusses how Typhoon prefigures the postmodern rendition of the aesthetics of the sublime advanced by French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard. The sublime in the novel becomes a transformative experience which generates new respect for the sea in Captain MacWhirr, and also requires his sympathetic imagination in negotiating a solution to the problem of the Chinese coolies in the conclusion. Typhoon suggests that human history is implicated in natural history, and that we ignore the power of the natural world at our peril.

Travel to this conference was made possible by funds from the ULM McKneely Endowed Professorship in English Literature, which Giles has held since 2013, and the College of Arts, Education, and Sciences.

Giles earned her B.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John's College, her M.A. in English (Concentration in Creative Writing) from the University of New Mexico, and her Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, United Kingdom. She has been an assistant professor of English at ULM since 2009, and an associate professor since 2015.