English professor Bergholtz published in triannual journal

Jul 17, 2020 | Faculty/Staff, General News, Liberal Arts

Dr. Benjamin Bergholtz, assistant professor of English at Louisiana Tech University, has an article in the latest issue of Genre: Forms of Discourse and Culture, a 50-year-old journal published by Duke University Press.

Titled “The ‘Pursuit of Knowledge’ and the Paradoxes of Postcolonial Encyclopedism in Zia Haider Rahman’s In the Light of What We Know,” Bergholtz, who teaches primarily American literature, focuses on Rahman’s 2014 novel which shifts all over the world—from London and Bangladesh to New York and Afghanistan. 

An excerpt from his book project on the same subject, his essay argues that In the Light is part of a genre known as “encyclopedic narrative,” whose form and content interrogate the pursuit of knowledge. While critics have historically interpreted encyclopedic narrative as a Western genre unequivocally critical or complimentary of the pursuit of total knowledge, his essay argues that In the Light fosters a uniquely postcolonial approach to encyclopedism that is simultaneously curious and cautious, wide-ranging and self-reflective. This “postcolonial encyclopedism,” as he calls it, helps readers recognize that encyclopedic narrative, a genre long associated with massive and meandering novels such as James Joyce’s Ulysses and Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, may be a potentially empowering, if ambivalent, mode of inquiry for postcolonial characters and authors alike.

The triannual Genre: Forms of Discourse and Culture, focuses on “the study of the codes, conventions, and histories of generic forms in the context of their cultural manifestations and effects.” Bergholtz is excited to publish in Genre because it is an ideal venue to share an essay that challenges some of the major conceptions of a genre that is both perplexing and, Bergholtz contends, politically important.

In the Light asks questions about all sorts of important topics,” Bergholtz said, “from the ‘War on Terror’ to the 2008 financial crisis to the ways in which the legacy of colonialism shapes contemporary events. And it does so in a style that asks readers to reflect upon their own pursuit of knowledge—this is how encyclopedic narratives work—while maintaining that truth is out there. It was published in 2014, but it’s very germane to our current political moment, where basic scientific facts are under assault and cries of ‘fake news’ make locating the truth a difficult, but not impossible, process.”

An abstract of Bergholtz’s essay appearing in volume 53, issue 1 is available at