TALKS & READINGS | William Rowlandson

Borges, Swedenborg & Mysticism | 11 July 2013 | Swedenborg Hall

7.00 pm (doors open at 6.30 pm | Swedenborg Hall, 20-21 Bloomsbury Way, London, WC1A 2TH | Admission is free but capacity is limited | BOOK YOUR PLACES NOW

On Thursday 11 July, we will be delighted to welcome Dr. William Rowlandson to Swedenborg Hall, to talk about his new book, Borges, Swedenborg and Mysticism (Peter Lang, 2013). William's talk is entitled: ‘Heaven and Hell are conditions of the Soul’ (Borges): The Abiding Presence of Swedenborg in the Works of Jorge Luis Borges.

JORGE LUIS BORGES admired Swedenborg and wrote extensively about him, paying close attention to his otherworld journeys, communication with angels, demons and the discarnate souls of the dead. Indeed the many mystical and anomalous features of Borges’ works are greatly influenced by his reading of Swedenborg. Borges repeatedly defended Swedenborg against charges of insanity, arguing that the man was remarkably lucid, that his accounts were the product of a profoundly intellectual mind, and that his voyages constituted journeys of discovery akin to Swedenborg’s Viking ancestors. ‘Swedenborg,’ wrote Borges, ‘is the first explorer of the other world. An explorer we should take seriously’.

Whilst the reader of Swedenborg is presented with challenges to assumptions about life, death, angelic beings and the divine, the reader of Borges’ texts concerning Swedenborg is presented with an equally challenging set of questions concerning the relationship between fact and fiction, realism and fantasy, voyages of discovery and poetry, orthodoxy and heterodoxy. Expanding this, it becomes clear that all of Borges’ writings concerning the ill-defined traditions of mysticism are characterized by equally puzzling questions of the nature of the real derived in large measure from Swedenborg’s works.

Read the full abstract for the talk

WILLIAM ROWLANDSON PhD is senior lecturer in Hispanic Studies at the University of Kent. He has recently completed Borges, Swedenborg & Mysticism, a book which examines the relationship between Borges’ own recorded mystical experiences and his appraisal of Swedenborg and other mystics. The book asks the essential question of whether Borges was a mystic by analysing his writings, including short stories, essays, poems and interviews, alongside scholarly writings on mysticism by figures such as William James. William’s work on Cuban poet and novelist José Lezama Lima concentrated on Lezama’s equation of poetry and the numinous. His published articles concern various areas of Latin American studies, including the history of Guantánamo Bay and Gitmo detention centre, rendition, torture, Cuba during the War on Terror. He has also published analyses of Borges, Lezama Lima, Cabrera Infante and Rulfo. William teaches aspects of Latin American cultural history, the prose and poetry of Borges, Cuban literature and film of the revolutionary era. Further information.

Doors open at 6.30 pm for a 7.00 pm start. Refreshments will also be available. Admission is free but capacity is limited; advance booking is highly recommended via