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Dossier Université Invitée : Philippines

The Department of English and Comparative Literature of the University of the Philippines Diliman

Aaron De Borja et Gema Charmaine Gonzales

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1This guest issue is made in collaboration with scholars from the Department of English and Comparative Literature of the University of the Philippines. Established in 1908, the University of the Philippines (UP) is the country’s premier university and is consistently recognized internationally as the top institute for higher learning in the Philippines for several years. It is at the forefront of producing knowledge and developing innovative practices in the fields of medicine, agriculture, engineering, the sciences, literature, philosophy, and fine arts. UP has produced 39 National Scientists, 44 National Artists, and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Seven of the 16 Presidents of the country were trained by the University as well 15 Chief Justices of its Supreme Court. Historically, UP’s service to the Philippine nation is unparalleled. The philosophy of marrying academic excellence and serving the Filipino people underpins its instruction and training of young minds. UP is witness to and active participant in shaping Philippine history during authoritarian regimes, contentious elections, and national uprisings against abuses of power and systemic oppression.

2Over time, the impact and reach of UP saw the rise of a total of seven constituent universities all over the country. One of these constituent universities is UP Diliman, the home of the Department of English and Comparative Literature (DECL). It is the first university English department in the Philippines and is currently accredited as a Center of Excellence in English and Literature. For over a century, the DECL has served as a hub for leading scholarship in English and literature in the country, with four degree offerings: Creative Writing, English Studies: Literature, English Studies: Language, and Comparative Literature. All programs are taught based on important traditions of the discipline as well as on cutting-edge scholarship that fosters interdisciplinarity, robust theoretical grounding, and a national and international orientation of praxis. The DECL was also home to canonical authors of the Philippine literary tradition in English, such as Jose Garcia Villa and Angela Manalang-Gloria, and contemporary voices in Philippine Literature such as Jose Dalisay and Gina Apostol. It has also produced a number of national artists mentioned above. Renowned literary critics, language studies and Philippine studies scholars such as Neferti Tadiar, Caroline Hau, Epfanio San Juan, and Ruanni Tupas are also graduates of the Department.

3This current collaboration with Université Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3 opens yet another important dialogue between different intellectual positions and contexts that are nevertheless united by their fervent exploration of new intellectual pathways through which to perform comparative literary studies. This issue opens with Anne Nichole Alegre’s “The Wails of Heaven: The Representation of Water in Contemporary Southeast Asian Poetry,” a thorough and incisive reading of the representation of water in the work of Southeast Asian poets Sarah Gambito, Khairani Barokka, and Cindy Childress using the frameworks of Blue Humanities and Trauma Studies. Through this approach, Alegre is able to surface how trauma and resilience are rooted in the processes of meaning-making that take place in the complex nexus of human activity and their situatedness in nature. Alegre argues for a new conception of water in particular and nature in general as deep political and material realities that shape collective identities. Ultimately, Alegre shows that it is in the recognition and praxis of this knowledge that critical hope emerges.

4Julie B. Jolo’s essay “Desire lines: Filipina transwomen and black girls’ wayward paths in the imperial city” explores how two texts mobilize wayward positioning as a means of installing counter-narratives to the marginalization and misrepresentation of black women in New York and transwomen in Olongapo city. These texts are: Saidiya Hartman’s book Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women and Queer Radicals (2019) and PJ Raval’s film Call Her Ganda (2018). In seeking to find parallels between the epistemological grounds of aggression against both groups, Jolo traces the trajectory of the wayward figure from Hartman’s illustration of metropolitan New York to Raval’s depiction of the US Naval Base in Subic Bay. Jolo’s article complicates assertions about the wayward, arguing that the rebellious figure challenges, recreates and extends imperial spaces, through the celebration of beauty, desire and affective communities.

5In “A Girardian Genre: The Scapegoat Mechanism in Detective Fiction,” Audrey Rose G. Mirasol brings us to the depths of the underworld through a reading of F.H. Batacan’s Smaller and Smaller Circles. Beginning with iterations of Girardian scapegoat mechanism in fiction, Mirasol foregrounds an alternative understanding of detective texts as ultimately, stories about the discovery and persecution of a scapegoat by a “clerical” sleuth. The analysis then investigates how this mechanism functions in a text like Batacan’s where the scapegoat, portrayed in a sympathetic light, is revealed to be a victim of a greater evil. In conclusion, Mirasol proposes a wider application of Girardian criticism, beyond the diegesis, to argue that the gesture of reading detective fiction itself is a way for readers to “sublimate” the urge to scapegoat in the real world.

6While the articles in this issue emerge from different theoretical standpoints, they are bound together in terms of their commitment in discovering new epistemological vista to read literature. The authors all reevaluate what is known or acceptable, as they orient their studies to the necessities and vagaries of present-day literary and societal geographies. Firmly situated within lived realities — be it ecological, social, political or postcolonial — they form a chart through which readers of this issue can navigate the contours of current research in comparative literature in the University.

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Aaron De Borja et Gema Charmaine Gonzales, « The Department of English and Comparative Literature of the University of the Philippines Diliman »TRANS- [En ligne], 29 | 2024, mis en ligne le , consulté le 13 juin 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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