Libraries are strange places: on the one hand they bear the promise of unlimited access to the truth, as epitomized in the retrospective utopia of the Great Library of Alexandria. On the other hand they appear as impenetrable labyrinths where the truth always seems to be just out of reach. At least, that is how libraries are commonly imagined throughout western literature and popular culture. From the uncanny labyrinths of Borges’ The Library of Babel and Eco’s The Name of the Rose, to the library-planet that eats its patrons in Dr. Who – the library appears as a dangerous place: “You enter and you do not know if you will come out.” But, paradoxically, new digital technologies simultaneously seem to reawaken the dream of a universal library. The simultaneous fantasy and fear of the library, as Koevoets argues in her dissertation, is intertwined with modern rationality: its aspirations, its discontents, and its gender politics. Koevoets has investigated the curious stereotype of the female librarian as a dowdy bookworm, set on humiliating and controlling the library user, through a critique of the western cultural imaginary of the library. Koevoets enters the library from three directions: firstly, as a cultural myth that naturalizes the dominance of reason; secondly, as a Gothic trope that stages cultural anxieties and fears pertaining to subjectivity and meaning; and thirdly, as spaces of resistance to the disciplinary dynamics and the operations of dominance and control that shape and maintain the cultural record. In her final chapter Koevoets investigates how libraries and librarians are being reimagined at an age when the libraries are converging with the digital record.
Date: Friday June 14, 2013 at 14.30 hrs
Location: Academiegebouw, University Utrecht (Domplein 29, Utrecht)
Title: ‘Into the labyrinth of power and knowledge: The library as a gendered space in the western imaginary’
Supervisors: Prof. dr. Rosemarie Buikema and Prof. dr. Svetlana Slapsak
Registration: no registration; free entrance