Renee Peggs | February 4, 2017
Kate Marshall, associate professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, has received a fellowship from the National Humanities Center (NHC) to spend this academic year researching and writing at the center in Durham, North Carolina.
The NHC grants up to 40 fellowships annually—from among hundreds of applications—to leading scholars from around the world in all fields of the humanities.
“NHC is a complete intellectual paradise,” Marshall said. “You’re surrounded by brilliant people, you have a beautiful office to work out of, it’s in the woods, and you have time, which is so rare and wonderful.
“There is no place else I could possibly have been to do this work as well or as happily.”
Her book project, titled Novels by Aliens, examines the relationship between non-human narration in contemporary realist fiction and the phenomenon of resistance to anthropocentrism, which is at the forefront of recent debates in critical theory.
By tracing that resistance across other disciplines such as media studies, philosophy, and the history of science, Marshall draws lines between contemporary literary works that make use of deliberate experiments in non-human narration.
Emerging from those connections is what Marshall terms narrative sentience—the capacity to engage critical questions about non-human agency within narrative form.
She points out that this is not a particularly new phenomenon.
“Novelists have been experimenting with forms of non-human narration for a very long time, longer than perhaps we’ve previously been aware or drawn attention to, in ways that get at some of the questions that feel urgent to critical thinkers today,” she said. “There are novels that offer us ways of thinking about complex problems that we might not have access to otherwise.”