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National University of Singapore
Failure's Shared Unshareability in Yiyun Li

This paper addresses an aspect of failure that I am calling “shared unshareability.” Highlighting this aspect of failure runs counter to the communitarian contour that “failure studies” and recent affect theory tend to give to contemporary understanding of failure, but it brings us to the following reckoning: that even though failure can be a common phenomenon, there is always something of failure that affects only the personal, that never leaves the personal. I argue that articulating failure’s “shared unshareability” allows us to come to terms with the irreducibility of failure; it also helps us understand why some of us would want to keep the sense of failure to ourselves. In this paper, I will elucidate failure’s “shared unshareability” through a selection of Yiyun Li’s texts, which deal with the failure to want to live, and which further show how melodrama and writing are also implicated. 


Irving Goh is President's Assistant Professor of Literature at the National University of Singapore. He is the author of The Reject: Community, Politics, and Religion after the Subject (Fordham UP), which won the MLA 23rd Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Best Book in French and Francophone Studies, and L'existence prépositionnelle (Galilée). The Deconstruction of Sex, a book he worked on with Jean-Luc Nancy, was recently published by Duke UP. He is currently completing his third monograph, Touching Literature, or the Experience of the Limit (contracted by Cornell UP), and is beginning work on a new book project on rethinking failure.

Zoom Details

Zoom link: https://hku.zoom.us/j/97039615527?pwd=b2FKcHFYQlZ4eVl5WDZmSDBRQklCZz09

Meeting ID: 970 3961 5527
Password: 373540

Live broadcast will be available in Room CRT-7.45, 7/F, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU.