Hospitality and Treachery in Western Literature


Hospitality in Literary Fiction always seemed an undiscovered territory. But I’m beginning to find explorers who have ventured into this field. One of them is James Heffernan, emeritus professor of Yale University. His book is called Hospitality and Treachery in Western Literature. I still need to read it, but from what I can find in the preface and table of content, Heffernan’s investigation focuses on instances of hospitality in great works of literature. The canon: Homer, The Bible, Shakespeare, 19-th Cy novels, modernist works–but also as an add-on, a post-09/11 play which portrays a terrorist at an American dinner party. There are interesting sub-themes here: the erotic attraction between famous hostesses and guests and violent instances of hosts being murdered by their guests. Heffernan is particularly concerned with the way hospitality, which “weaves the social fabric” is constantly under threat. It can easily be abused by acts of rejection, seduction, corruption and betrayal. Heffernan’s analysis of this anti-hospitality seems to add depth to the notion of hospitality as a continuum–a scheme now being developed by Conrad Lashley, who we met earlier on this blog, and yesterday took Expedition members on a tour around Hospitality Studies in an exciting talk. Here’s Professor Heffernan’s introduction to the book.


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