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Munby Fellowship In Bibliography Do Numbers

Calvino, Llull, Lucretius - Two Models of Literary Combinatorics

Jan 2012: Comparative Literature 64(1): 94-109 A recurring problem in much critical writing ab... more Jan 2012: Comparative Literature 64(1): 94-109 A recurring problem in much critical writing about the Oulipo is a tendency to homogenize the output of the group’s writers in order to present a universal poetics of constrained writing. Oulipians rightly bristle at these attempts to oversimplify the group’s history. Nevertheless one useful distinction has been made by Jacques Roubaud who notes the widening of the group’s membership which began with himself in 1966, and postulates that a second era—the “Perecquian era”—of the Oulipo began in 1969, when Georges Perec published his infamous novel without the letter e, La Disparition. This paper will look closely at the theoretical writing of Italo Calvino over the six year period from 1967 to 1973—the years between his translation of Raymond Queneau’s novel Les Fleurs bleues and his full election to the Oulipo—arguing that, during this time, Calvino’s own poetics underwent a significant change with regard to the perceived relationship between creativity and constraint. The paper will make its case by analogy with two authors often cited by the Oulipo—the medieval theologian Ramón Llull and the Atomist philosopher Lucretius—between whom Calvino draws a parallel in one of his final works, the undelivered lectures, Six Memos for the Next Millennium. Instead of a parallel, however, this paper will argue that Llull and Lucretius represent two opposing models of the combinatorics, and that the former encapsulates Calvino’s views at the start of the period in question, while the latter neatly exemplifies his later position. It will suggest too that the trend in Calvino’s thought is germane to the distinction which Roubaud makes—that Calvino’s earlier position is characteristic of the “pre-Perecquian Oulipo,” while his later views are closer to those expressed by some of his peers among the group’s second wave.


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The Fellowship is normally tenable for ten months (1 October-31 July) and there is a salary of about £34,520 (pro rata). The Munby Fellow will be given work space in the University Library and will enjoy access to the Library’s collections on the same terms as the members of its permanent staff. A modest amount of help with research expenses is available. The Fellow will be expected to submit a written report on the progress of the research project during the second half of the tenure of the Fellowship and this report may form the basis of an informal discussion between the Electors to the Fellowship and the Fellow. The Fellow will not be called upon to undertake any routine departmental or other staff duties or responsibilities within the Library.

There will normally be available to the Munby Fellow a non-stipendiary Research or Visiting Fellowship at Darwin College for the period of tenure of the Munby Fellowship. Darwin College is a graduate college of about 80 Fellows and over 450 graduate students. The Munby Fellow is expected to participate fully in the College’s intellectual and social life. He/she would be a member of the Governing Body, and would be entitled to take meals without payment in the College. The College would, if requested, give practical, but not financial, help in finding accommodation.

Who may apply?

The Munby Fellowship is open to graduates in any discipline, men or women, of any university or nationality. Preference will be given to scholars at post-doctoral or an equivalent level. The offer of the Fellowship to any foreign national (other than a citizen of the EU or Gibraltar) or to any Commonwealth citizen would be subject to the issue of a work permit by the Department of Employment.


The Fellowship is normally advertised each summer for a post beginning in October the following year. The advert is posted on the Library's Job Opportunities webpage. Election to the Fellowship is normally made by early January of the year of the date of commencement of the Fellowship. There are no interviews.

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