On March 9, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., in Duke University's FHI Garage, The Novel Project at Duke presents:
A symposium: Globalizing the Novel
Jeanne-Marie Jackson (Johns Hopkins): The Global Novel of Non-Ideas: The African Death of Philosophical Suicide."
Anna Bernard (Kings College London): 'Hebrew, Arabic, and Death': Palestine/Israel and the Global Novel
Mariano Siskind (Harvard): "Post-global and after-cosmopolitan: contemporary literary dislocations of the non-world"
10 a.m. Talk: Anna Bernard
11:30 a.m. Talk: Jeanne-Marie Jackson
1 – 2 p.m. Lunch
2 p.m. Talk: Mariano Siskind
3:30 – 5 p.m. Roundtable
Jane Elliott Lecture and Graduate Student Seminar Recap
By: Kevin Gallin
Novel: A Forum on Fiction, and the Novel Project at Duke, along with the Duke English Department enthusiastically welcomed back Jane Elliott, senior lecturer of post-’45 Literary and Cultural Studies at King’s College in London, to give a talk and lead a graduate student seminar consecutively on October 27 and 28. Recently, Elliott has investigated the evolution and recombination of politics, aesthetics, and theory in the wake of fading post-modernism, a line she traces through her recent articles and edited collections, Theory After Theory, Genres of Neo-Liberalism, and Suffering Agency. Her lecture on Thursday, entitled “Binary Life,” built on this trajectory, specifically focusing on “life-interest,” a feature of the narrative form that she has defined as the ‘microeconomic mode.”
Elliott gave a compelling reading of Michael Punke’s The Revenant, the novel on which the recent Academy Award winning film was based. The novel places the protagonist’s struggle in the context of settler colonialism that pushes every participant to the very limits of his or her survival. In doing so, the novel mobilizes what Elliott calls “the microeconomic mode,” a narrative form that crosses genres and media by creating conditions under which “life necessarily exists at the expense of other life.” Played out in discrete exchanges between individuals who must pursue their own “life interest,” these encounters require kill-or-be-killed choices. These games of survival force a shift in the concept of the individual from “a liberal individual with a right to life” to a “a subject with an interest in life” who cannot choose not to choose even though that choice inevitably comes at the cost of another person’s death. This reduction of the individual subject to their life-interest authorizes a logic of “fractal subtraction” in which every step forward results in even more human death and suffering. Elliott’s reading of The Revenant undermines the film version’s apparent argument for “good colonialism.” Rather than exemplifying the good man doing his best to survive in a corrupt and violent system, Hugh Glass is the avatar of an economic system that grinds each of its constituents down to “life interest.”
Nancy Armstrong’s introduction to the talk called attention to Elliott’s ability to allow theory to emerge from the text as its own self-theoretical dimension, and to “slide across various theoretical discourses that support and give affective heft to the text on which she focuses.” Elliott indeed opened up her reading of The Revenant to address everything from The Hunger Games to Life of Pi, The Road to Zootopia, with occasional pit stops in New Orleans and the Saw film franchise. The lecture sparked a lively discussion afterwards, in which a clearly enthusiastic audience probed some of the limits of the microeconomic mode – when did it start, where did it come from, is there such a thing as a macroeconomic mode? – and Elliott provided answers that drew clearer lines around the scope of her project as a specific form in a particular political and sociocultural moment, which allowed for both compelling readings in her own work and the potential for broad applications beyond it.
These questions were also taken up in the graduate seminar the following afternoon. Elliot started by laying out her writing process for her manuscript, and detailed how after months of research, a great deal of structuring and outlining, and about 20,000 words, she found herself at a loss of how to proceed. She threw out most of that work, but reiterated that she “had to do that work to know that I needed to throw it out.” This acknowledgement of the iterative process of writing was a daunting but ultimately reassuring thing for graduate students to hear as they move toward and through their dissertations. This process also prompted students to ask about the relationship between the works she chose and the arguments she made, and how they influenced one another. To this, she reaffirmed the importance of revision and rethinking, advising that archive and argument constantly reform each other in novel and unexpected ways. Ultimately, though, she challenged the students to trust their own arguments when they think they’re on to something: “No way you can do it unless you believe in it.”
NOVEL is excited to announce that Jane Elliott from King's College London will be visiting Duke University October 27-28.
Elliott will give a talk titled "Sovereign Capture" on October 27 from 5-7 p.m. in 314 Allen Building.
Elliott will also participate in a seminar with graduate students on noon the 28th.
Elliott is a senior lecturer of post-'45 Literary and Cultural Studies at King's College London. Elliott's current research concerns the combined aesthetic, political, and theoretical developments to emerge with the waning of post-modernism, as suggested by her recent articles and edited collections, Theory After Theory, Genres of Neo-liberalism, and Suffering Agency.
The event is sponosored by Novel: A Forum on Fiction, The Novel Project at Duke, and the Duke English Department.
On Thursday, September 15, Duke University Middle East Studies Center, the Novel Project, the Franklin Humanities Institute, and the Program in Literature will sponsor a talk by Aamir Mufti titled “Strangers in Europa: Migrants, Terrorists, Refugees.” The event will take place in the Thomas Room of Lilly Library on East Campus and begins at 6 p.m. The talk is free and open to the public.
Aamir Mufti, Professor of Comparative Literature at UCLA, is the author of Enlightenment in the Colony: The Jewish Question and the Crisis of Enlightenment Culture.
For more information about the event, please see the flyer below.
Society for Novel Studies 2016 Conference: Tom McCarthy Keynote
By: Nick Huber
Tom McCarthy delivered a keynote speech entitled “Vanity’s Residue” to the 2016 Society for Novel Studies Biennial Conference held in Pittsburgh, PA on May 13th and 14th. As the author of four novels including Remainder (2005) and Satin Island (2015), a work of criticism revolving around Herge’s Tintin comics (Tintin and the Secret of Literature), and dozens of essays on contemporary aesthetic problems, McCarthy offered a welcome repositioning of the conference’s viewpoint from the scholar of the novelist to the novelist himself.
And yet McCarthy proved to be as intellectually nimble and canny as readers of his novels might have expected. Proposing we understand the work of the novelist as a series of distress signals or, more emphatically, of pings from a black box unrecovered from terra incognita, from the gap between world and map, McCarthy followed the smoke trails from Clytemnestra to Trevor Paglen in a provocative demonstration of the ricochet from content to form and the point at which the latter becomes the former. The talk’s speculative thesis—that the novelist’s prerogative is to get lost—was a familiar trope but McCarthy built a de-narrativized conceptualization of writing, marking, and transmission that consistently valorized negativity as a powerfully generative force, thereby dissolving any rote New Age pseudo-bildungsroman of self-discovery that often accompanies such a position. The state of being lost, for McCarthy, is not existential so much as material: “how do you put the world on paper?” In a move characteristically erudite and puckish in equal measures, McCarthy deflected easy answers to this question by offering his own in the form of a quotation from an early 20th century geographer (J. A. Steers) that resists settling anything: “As it is impossible to make a sheet of paper rest smoothly on a sphere, so it is impossible to make a correct map on a sheet of paper.” The impossibility of definitively mapping what is perceived, let alone interpreting that map with final confidence, arises out of the materials themselves, McCarthy argued, in the spatial breach between the markings and their referents.
It is in these terms—and in following Agamben—that McCarthy suggested that Melville’s “Bartleby, in not writing, becomes the writer par excellence, embodiment of the Arabic Qualam or Pen, angel of unfathomable potentiality.” Or take his next example, Francis Ponge’s rumination on the capacities of the sponge (which comes to McCarthy via Derrida) which figures writing as “a messy, always incomplete engagement with material surplus, dirty spillage.” These models seem to describe McCarthy’s work as a novelist as well as his work in the International Necronautical Society. McCarthy shared a few examples of the work produced under this heading, including Greenwich Degree Zero, an historical rewriting and filmed reenactment of the 1894 failed bombing of the Greenwich Observatory as the successful 1894 bombing of the Greenwich Observatory. McCarthy, before fielding questions from the audience, traced outward from this reenactment using Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life to consider the figure of “someone—anyone—who is dying” and suggested in conclusion and in agreement with de Certeau that the “dying man who tries to speak” might be, precisely, the writer.
Pre-Neo-Liberalisms and the Novel
By: Jackie Kellish and Hannah Rogers
Our goal in planning this symposium was to convene a discussion among graduate students and faculty at Duke with invited speakers and roundtable participants from other universities in which consider how the novel takes and/or resists the turn from liberalism to neoliberalism. In the process, we hoped to unearth an alternative genealogy of neoliberalism. Some questions we hoped to take up were: At what point does liberalism “turn” and become something else? Can empire exist without it? How do novels explain this tipping point and the emergence of other forms of community? How far back in history do we have to go to address these questions, and how would doing so affect current histories and theories of “the novel?”
Presentations and Response
In her paper, “Submerged Under the Desert Sands of Capitalist Prose”: History, Neoliberalism, and Thackery’s Novel of Things, Zarena Aslami used Thackery’s Vanity Fair to explore the transition from absolute sovereignty to a detached liberal governance (a headless power). Using Eric Santner’s frame of a move from fetishism of persons to the fetishism of commoditites, Aslami argues that the novel charts the after-effects of sovereignty and its overlap with early British liberalism in the nineteenth-century. In showing this pivotal moment where we turn from an embodied monarchical sovereignty to a diffuse abstract sovereignty, Aslami raises the question of whether or not the novel form supports or resists this move. Her remarks described how faith in the foundation of the political sphere evaporates as power is dispersed from the body of the king to the bodies of citizens. But, with reference to Vanity Fair, Aslami finds “utopic horizons” that transcend national boundaries to produce belonging and make efforts to present a map of global networks that show systems in which Victorians live. This leaves us with questions of where these moments of utopia come from and how they “work.” Is this utopia the untheorized excess of liberalism, an example of “pre-neo-liberalism” in practice, or the undomesticated surplus of liberalism? And are these utopian glimpses unique to the novel or can they appear in other spaces, such as forms of bureaucratic busyness?
In his paper, “History’s Happy End,” Vaughn Rasberry offered an alternative to the neo-liberal conception of capitalist democracy as the inevitable “end of history” through an analysis of Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty. Taking his audience back to a Cold War-era moment, Rasberry drew attention not only to the utopian promise of socialism for many in the mid-to-late twentieth century, but also the significance of a moment in which the apparent choice between two ideologies created an open and unfinalized sense of historical possibility. But this sense of possibility, according to Rasberry, was not without its own contradictions and challenges. He highlighted the problematic elements of communist doctrine that on the one hand, supported decolonization struggles and movements for African-American rights, while also subjecting black self-narratives to yet another ideological master narrative. Rasberry’s close reading of a scene in the novel focused on a scene between a young Soviet girl and a pro-capitalist black American man at an American exhibition in Moscow, debating the merits of their respective ways of life. In the absence of a conclusive sense that one has triumphed over the other, Rasberry suggests that the value of the novel itself actually lies in its ability to re-stage the question itself. By moving beyond factual accounts of history proper and using narrative to open up imaginative possibilities that undo and re-fashion familiar teleologies, we embrace a productive, speculative “fairy-tale” genre of writing and thinking. His conclusions prompted spirited discussion from the audience, many of whom raised questions concerning the question of genre in African-American writing of the era, the relationship between self-narration and political ideology, whether alternative historical readings allow us to imagine the triumph of a system even beyond the capitalism-socialism binary, and the ways in which the novel provides a space for the kind of experimental world-making that allows us to revise our historical experience.
In her paper, “Hands off, and off with their heads! Toward an Epistemological Anatomy of Capitalism from Laissez-Faire to Neoliberalism,” Dierdra Reber questions the implied relationship(s) between liberalism and neo-liberalism, and between the respective political and economic undertones of both terms. Beginning with the age of revolutions, she charts the manner in which liberalism ushers in free-market democracy, its subsequent hybridization in the colonial period, and finally, in a post-Soviet age, the return to and intensification of free-market democratic ideals marked by epistemological affect rather than rationality. This last phase, she suggests, has been subsumed under the term “neo-liberalism” and indicates a shift away from the privileging of the political in early democracy to a privileging of the economic in the post-imperial age of democracy’s unchallenged dominance. Reber also examines contemporary political phenomena ranging from the rise of the Tea Party to Donald Trump’s candidacy to emphasize the pushback against vertical logic, organization, and any form of hierarchy in this neo-liberal era. In concluding, she pointed out the inherent paradox of neoliberalim’s staunchly free-market logic, in which trade supposedly acts as a force for freedom and equalization among peoples, and yet, in this era, we simultaneously witness the media attention--fueled by vast sums of money--surrounding a “politician” like Trump and realize that even the democratic process is at its heart, a process of consumerism driven by an incredibly unbalanced hierarchy of money and power. Discussion after Reber’s presentation considered the relationship between neoliberalism and “low” cultural elements, the accuracy of neoliberalism’s self-presentation as dispersed and non-hierarchical, and the idea of a particular affect surrounding neoliberalism.
The symposium overall raised questions both about neoliberalism and the novel form: Is the idea of “pre-neo-liberalism” actually related to liberalism or something else entirely — and, if so, how should we characterize this? What kind of alternative communities can be formed outside of neoliberalism? Does the novel have such an alternative community in mind, even when it seems most committed to the model of European liberalism? We know that empire can exist without liberalism, but can liberalism exist without empire? How far back in history would one have to go to address this question, and how would doing so alter current histories of “the novel”?
An Evening with Colson Whitehead
By: Justin Mitchell
On April 19th the Novel Project at Duke in collaboration with Novel: A Forum on Fiction, the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts, the English Department, the Center for International Studies/Global Cities, and the Department of African-American Studies hosted author Colson Whithead at Duke University's Nasher Auditorium. Whitehead, whose celebrated works include the zombie novel Zone One and the essay collection The Colossus of New York, spoke at length about his origins as a writer before reading a passage from his forthcoming book The Underground Railroad, a work of speculative fiction that envisions the slaves’ legendary road to freedom in the antebellum south as an actual network of underground tunnels. Afterward, Whitehead engaged in a stimulating conversation with two professors from the English department— Popular Culture scholar Mark Anthony Neal and novel theorist Nancy Armstrong—and responded to a broad range of questions from the audience.
Whitehead explained how he grew up reading novels by Stephen King and initially aspired to write books like The Shining and Salem’s Lot from a black perspective. “Basically if you put ‘the black’ in front of [the title of] every Stephen King novel, that’s what I wanted to do,” he said. As an undergraduate at Harvard he also found inspiration in modernist literature, partly because it shared genre writing’s preoccupation with the “the fantastic.” Initially, however, Whitehead lacked the discipline to achieve his literary ambitions. “I considered myself a writer in college,” he said, “but I didn’t actually write anything. Apparently that’s part of the process. I wore plaid and smoked cigarettes, but I didn’t actually sit down and write.” He tried twice to enroll in one of Harvard’s creative writing seminars but was rejected both times.
After college Whitehead landed a job at The Village Voice, a newspaper that nurtured writers who felt equally drawn to highbrow and popular cultures. He eventually convinced an editor to let him review television shows. His work as a television critic inspired his first novel, which he described as a “very theoretical” work of “Gen-X fiction.” The book got him an agent, but failed to find a publisher. Whitehead offered a droll account of how he dealt with all the rejections and finally resolved to start writing fiction again: “As I sat in my dirty studio apartment, watching Jerry Springer, I realized that I was a recipient of all that sit-on-your-ass-and-muse-about-crap-all-day DNA. And it didn’t matter if no one liked what I was doing. I had no choice. So I got back to work and it went better the next time with The Inuitionist.”
During the Q&A with an enthusiastic audience of faculty and students, Whitehead described the writing process (which included regular TV watching and listening to music), his many literary influences, his engagement with critical theory, and his current fascination with pop culture. Although Whitehead remains culturally omnivorous, he only feels at home writing novels and essays. “I didn’t ever figure out how to write a short story,” he said. “I’ve written, like, two in the last twenty-five years. I’ll have a simple idea, and it gets bigger and bigger and becomes novel size.” Not surprisingly, he has received offers to work in other media, but, at least up to this point, he has not felt compelled to pursue them. He prefers the independence and solitude of fiction writing over working in television and film. “All those sort of non-fiction, non-novel things always seems attractive—‘oh, a piece of money’—but then I always get like ‘I’ll just write a novel,’” he said. “It’s so much easier than working with people.”
Join the V21 Collective for festive libations in Pittsburgh!
Thursday 12 May
(basement room reserved)
212 Oakland Ave, a few blocks from the Wyndham
Details and more at:
For more information about SNS 2016: http://novel.trinity.duke.edu/sns/2016-conference
The Novel Project at Duke in collaboration with the journal Novel: A Forum on Fiction, the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts, the English Department, the Center for International Studies/Global Cities, and the Department of African-American Studies would like to invite you to “An Evening with Colson Whitehead.” Please join us on April 19th at the Nasher Museum Auditorium, where award-winning novelist Colson Whitehead will speak about his latest work and the craft of fiction. Whitehead’s talk will begin at 5:30 PM to be followed by a Q&A with Duke Professors Mark Anthony Neal, Nancy Armstrong, and members of the audience.
The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, Whitehead is the author of seven books: The Intuitionist, nominated for the PEN/Hemingway Award; John Henry Days, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; The Colossus of New York, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; Apex Hides the Hurt, winner of the PEN/Oakland Award; Sag Harbor, a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award; Zone One, a New York Times bestseller; The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky & Death; and the forthcoming novel The Underground Railroad.
Pre-Neo-Liberalisms and the Novel
The fourth annual symposium of NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction
Friday, April 8
Franklin Humanities Institute (Smith Warehouse, 114 S. Buchanan Blvd., Bay 4)
Our goal in planning this symposium was to convene a discussion among graduate students and faculty at Duke with invited speakers and roundtable participants from other universities in which consider how the novel takes and/or resists the turn from liberalism to neoliberalism. In the process, we hope to unearth an alternative genealogy of neoliberalism. Does the novel, in this respect, challenge established literary and political theoretical models that identify neo-liberalism as a late twentieth-century event? When does the novel register a shift from liberalism to neoliberalism? How if at all does the novel display tropes that prefigure neoliberalism? Where does neoliberalism take shape in the history of the novel? In what tangible ways are earlier liberalisms already contemporary? When read as a descriptive theory of liberalism, does the novel provide an alternate genealogy of neoliberalism?
The problem of liberalism is also the problem of empire: how democratic or exclusive can it be and still retain the characteristics of liberalism? To put it another way, in expanding its domain to incorporate new populations, at what point does liberalism “turn” and become something else? How do novels explain this tipping point and the emergence of some alternative form of community? We know that empire can exist without liberalism, but can liberalism exist without empire? How far back in history would one have to go to address this question, and how would doing so alter current histories of “the novel”?
The problem of liberalism, this suggests, is also the problem of nationalism. Contrary to canonical accounts that tie the rise of the novel with that of the nation, Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities being only the best, we want to consider whether the community thus imagined has ever been only national. Or, does the novel ask us to think of the nation in terms of specific junction points or relay stations in what actually operates within the novel as much larger movements of people, goods, labor, services, and information on which “the nation” depends for its vitality? Is the nation better understood as a dynamic network than as a territorially bound population, culture, or economy?
As for what we mean by neoliberalism itself—a much overused term these days—can the novel help us to think our way through—and hopefully beyond—neoliberal models? Or is the novel too bound to the principle that the answer to the problem of liberalism is more or better liberalism? Did the novel always have an alternative community in mind, even when it seems most committed to the model of European liberalism?
Zarena Aslami, Associate Professor of English, Michigan State University
Vaughn Rasberry, Assistant Professor of English, Stanford University
Dierdra Reber, Assistant Professor of Spanish, Emory University
9:30-10:00 Coffee and breakfast snacks
10:00-10:15 Introduction: Armstrong/Kellish
10:15-11:30 Zarena Aslami, “‘Submerged Under the Desert Sands of Capitalist Prose’: History, Neoliberalism, and Thackeray’s Novel of Things”
11:45-1:00 Vaughn Rasberry, “History’s Happy Ending”
1:00-2:00 Buffet lunch (FHI)
2:00-3:15 Dierdra Reber, “Hands off, and off with their heads! Toward an Epistemological Anatomy of Capitalism from Laissez-Faire to Neoliberalism”
3:15-3:30 Wine and snacks
3:30-5:00 Roundtable: Nancy Armstrong (Chair)
Anne Garreta (Duke)
Wahneema Lubiano (Duke)
John Marx (UC Davis)
Ellen Rooney (Brown)
Richard Rosa (Duke)
2240 Cranford Road
NOVEL and The Novel Project are excited to announce that Bruce Robbins from Columbia will be visiting Duke on March 3-4.
On Thursday, March 3rd at 5:30, he will give a talk titled “Atrocity and the Novel” in Allen 314.
On Friday, March 4th, 12:00-1:30, he will lead a seminar with graduate students in Allen 314. In advance, Robbins will provide new or in-progress work to discuss. Lunch will be provided, and participants will be capped at 20. Please email email@example.com to secure a space, a lunch, and copies of Robbins’s work. (Please let us know of any dietary requirements.)
Robbins’s work ranges from the Victorian to the contemporary periods, covering topics such as cosmopolitanism, inequality, violence, and the welfare state. His newest book is the forthcoming The Beneficiary: Cosmopolitanism from the Viewpoint of Inequality, a follow-up to Perpetual War: Cosmopolitanism from the Viewpoint of Violence (2012). His other books include Upward Mobility and the Common Good: Toward a Literary History of the Welfare State, Feeling Global: Internationalism in Distress, and The Servant’s Hand: English Fiction from Below.
The Mellon Foundation Humanities Writ Large and Duke University Middle East Studies Center will host award-winning Syrian novelist, screenwriter, and poet Khaled Khalifa at Duke University from Feb. 10-12, 2016. All events are free and open to the public. For more information, see the schedule and/or flyer below for more information.
Feb. 10-Writing Fiction When Your Country Is Falling Apart
5:00 p.m., Ahmadieh Family Conference Hall, Franklin Center 240
Feb. 11-In Praise of Hatred: A Conversation With Khaled Khalifa
5:30 p.m., Breedlove Room, Rubenstein Library Floor 3 — West Campus
Feb. 12-Death Is Hard Work: Arabic Session
6:00 p.m., Thomas Room, Lilly Library — East Campus
This event is sponosored by AMES FastTRack; Duke University Middle East Studies Center; Mellon Foundation Humanities Writ Large; and The Novel Project at Duke.
Written By: Tavid Mulder and Michelle Rada
A vital and constantly shifting form, the novel is technological in distinctive ways. Thus, the novel can be approached as a site that enables us to think about what technology is and how it functions. At the same time, the explosion of interest in new technologies throws into relief previously unnoticed aspects of the novel. Novel Technologies engages current discussions regarding novel form through the lens of the technological. How, for example, might information models of “sending” and “receiving” transform our understanding of affect, identity, point of view, and narration as configured within and by the novel? Is the novel’s formal architecture comparable or assimilable to other technologies? To what extent can novelistic narrative forms be considered “adaptive” technologies? How are outdated or emerging technologies thought differently when read as emerging alongside, rather than in opposition to, the novel?
Novel Technologies aims to open up a conversation about how such questions might enable us to detach the novel from modes of analysis predicated on discourse. From reconsiderations of the dynamism of matter to alternative ontologies oriented towards objects; from the appearance of data-oriented critical approaches to investigations of posthumanism and the “anthropocene,” contemporary literary theory is turning away from discourse as an all-encompassing frame. While the insights and practices of deconstruction and poststructuralism are still present, recent theoretical currents are exploring new, non-discursive methods of reading and questioning. The symposium investigates the possibilities of disassociating the notion of form from its institutional ties to discourse, and considers what might be gained by reframing the question of literary form as a question of technology and apparatus.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel form functioned alongside industry as a mechanism for capturing and calculating life and its limits. To the Greeks, according to Heidegger, techne meant “to make something appear, within what is present, as this or that, in this way or that way.” From serialization to narrative developments such as stream of consciousness and free indirect style, formal features and their transformations might be read as technological innovations, extensions of and upgrades to the novel’s mode of “bringing forth.” This symposium approaches technology as both interlaced within and in tension with the novel form. How is literary studies itself changed when we consider form under the sign of techne or technology?
PRESENTATIONS & RESPONSE
In his paper, “The Other Panopticon: Technology and Narrative Form in Enlightenment Britain,” Joseph Drury reminds us of the playful dimension of technology and the novel in the eighteenth-century. Foucault’s analysis of Bentham’s Panopticon has left us with an almost dystopian image of a century bent on meticulous control and discipline. But Bentham’s hypothetical construction was not the only Panopticon at the time. Indeed, Panopticons proliferated and linked in a variety of contexts with phantasmagorias, automata and scientific experiments. William Godwin, as Drury outlines, developed a similar theory of the novel, insisting on its radical, emancipatory potential as a technology. The eighteenth-century, in other words, presents an image not of the inescapable origin of modern technological domination of technology, but rather of alternative technologies that encourage play in specific contexts. Rather than Bentham’s Panopticon, therefore, the eighteenth-century novel seems to have more in common with the Panopticon created by the watchmaker and inventor Christopher Pinchbeck and his son John, an elaborate musical machine that provided amusing philosophical representations of the workings of nature, society, and the cosmos. Drury explores this aesthetic and political relationship through the theoretical insights of contemporary philosophers of technology, who acknowledge the contingency and variety of technology’s cultural meanings and effects, but who nonetheless find continuities in the way technology mediates human experience and behavior across different contexts. If the novel’s panoptic machinery was a contingent construction whose social and political effects depended not on any inherent technical qualities but on the context in which it was produced and used, then, according to Godwin and friends, it ought to be possible to transform it into an “engine of truth and reform.”
Laurel Harris’s paper, “A ‘Continuous Performance’: Recording Technologies and Memory in the Twentieth-Century Novel” argued for alternative methods for thinking about the modernist novel’s relationship to emerging technologies of its time, a topic often relegated to thematic analyses that pigeonhole the novel as having a merely symptomatic relation to this or that apparatus. Harris’s paper, on the other hand, seeks alternative forms for thinking about and through the entanglement between the novel and technology, so as not to explain away this complicated partnership through narratives of competition, analogy, or adaptation. Harris argues that representations of memory through representational media like film and the gramophone in the modernist novel do not easily fit concepts of remediation, rejection, or adaptation. Such representations of memory often appeal to the indexical tracing of the event transforming narrative form in the novel as a kindred time-based medium. Harris reads the extension of representational technologies, particularly film, into novel form within three texts—Dorothy Richardson’s long novel Pilgrimage (1915-1967), Jean Rhys’s Good Morning, Midnight (1939), and Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook (1962)—to show the intersections and productive contradictions in their representation of memory through these media. A consideration of this intersection reveals an intertwining of interior and exterior memory that changes representations of identity in the twentieth-century novel.
In “Novel Temporalities and the Beings of Fiction,” R. John Williams presents a challenging, thought-provoking suggestion: what if our most utopian dreams for literature—that literature could be not merely fictional but ontological—had already been realized, but in the hands of transnational corporations? For many years now, corporations have employed professional writers to create “scenarios,” detailed fictional accounts of future situations to which the company may have to adapt. What is most surprising about William’s fascinating example is the attitude corporations take toward these fictions. A scenario should not simply confirm the corporation’s already existing plans and direction; it should challenge the corporation’s assumptions, making it more flexible and open. Corporations, it turns out, take literature very seriously. The uncanny similarities between scenarios and the goals of humanist education may give us pause. If the novel is a technology, what does it do? To what ends can it be put?
In the spirit of academic discussion, Novel Technologies raised numerous questions. What kind of technology is the novel? Machinic? Industrial? Cybernetic? Is such a technology entrenched in oppressive power relations and thus bound to reproduce them? Or could the novel pose potentially emancipatory possibilities to structures of power and domination? Is the relationship between the novel and technology metaphorical, or metonymic? Can we pursue the comparison with technology without sacrificing the literary specificity of the novel? These questions suggest a productive line of inquiry that resonates with the current proliferation of technologies.
The comparison between the novel and technology allows for a different understanding of literature, but it may also contribute to a more nuanced picture of technology. If technology complicates the humanist assumptions underlying our normal conceptions of the novel, literature, in turn, may enable a more humanized notion of technology, wherein technology could appear, as Walter Benjamin proposed, not as second nature but as an intrinsic aspect of a politics that orchestrates playful encounters of humanity and nature.
November 6-7, 2015 at Brown University
Location: Crystal Room, Alumnae Hall, 194 Meeting Street, Providence, RI 02912
That widely diffused representational technology known as the Novel.
D. A. Miller, Jane Austen, or The Secret of Style
A vital and constantly shifting form, the novel is technological in distinctive ways. Thus, the novel can be approached as a site that enables us to think about what technology is and how it functions; at the same time, the explosion of interest in new technologies throws into relief previously unnoticed aspects of the novel. Novel Technologies will engage current discussions regarding novel form through the lens of the technological. How, for example, might information models of “sending” and “receiving” transform our understanding of affect, identity, point of view, and narration as configured within and by the novel? Is the novel’s formal architecture comparable or assimilable to other technologies? To what extent can novelistic narrative forms be considered “adaptive” technologies? How are outdated or emerging technologies thought differently when read as emerging alongside, rather than in opposition to, the novel?
Novel Technologies aims to open up a conversation about how such questions might enable us to detach the novel from modes of analysis predicated on discourse. From reconsiderations of the dynamism of matter to alternative ontologies oriented towards objects; from the appearance of data-oriented critical approaches to investigations of posthumanism and the “anthropocene,” contemporary literary theory is turning away from discourse as an all-encompassing frame. While the insights and practices of deconstruction and poststructuralism are still present, recent theoretical currents are exploring new, nondiscursive methods of reading and questioning. This symposium undertakes to investigate further the possibilities of disassociating the notion of form from its institutional ties to discourse, and to consider what might be gained by reframing the question of literary form as a question of technology and apparatus.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel form functioned alongside industry as a mechanism for capturing and calculating life and its limits. To the Greeks, according to Heidegger, techne meant “to make something appear, within what is present, as this or that, in this way or that way.” From serialization to narrative developments such as stream of consciousness and free indirect style, formal features and their transformations might be read as technological innovations, extensions of and upgrades to the novel’s mode of “bringing forth.” This symposium will approach technology as both interlaced within and in tension with the novel form. How is literary studies itself changed when we consider form under the sign of techne or technology?
Friday, Nov. 6
10:30 AM: Coffee and Pastries in Crystal Room
11:00 AM: Introduction to Event
11:15 AM -12:45 PM: First Session--Joseph Drury, "The Other Panopticon: Technology and Narrative Form in Enlightenment Britain"
1:00-2:00 PM: Lunch
2:00-3:30 PM: Second Session--Laurel Harris, "A 'Continuous Performance': Recording Technologies and Memory in the Twentieth-Century Novel"
3:30-3:45 PM: Coffee/Pastries Break
3:45-5:15 PM: Third Session--R. John Williams, "Novel Temporalities and the Beings of Fiction"
5:30-6:30 PM: Reception
10:00 AM - Noon: Round Table
Joseph Drury: "The Other Panopticon: Technology and Narrative Form in Enlightenment Britain."
Joseph Drury is assistant professor of English at Villanova University. He received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, and specializes in eighteenth-century British literature. He has published articles and reviews in Novel, Eighteenth-Century Fiction, and Eighteenth-Century Studies and has an essay on the gothic novel forthcoming in The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation special issue on Bruno Latour and Eighteenth-Century Studies. He is currently completing a book, titled Novel Machines: Technology and Form in Eighteenth-Century British Fiction.
Laurel Harris: "A 'Continuous Performance': Recording Technologies and Memory in the Twentieth-Century Novel"
Laurel Harris is Assistant Professor of English at Rider University. She has recently published on Vernon Lee, Virginia Woolf, and British documentary cinema in the 1930s, and she is co-editor of the collection Communal Modernisms: Teaching Twentieth-Century Literature in the Twenty-First-Century Classroom (Palgrave, 2013). She is currently working on a project exploring conceptions of gender and technological neutrality in the early twentieth-century Anglo-American novel.
R. John Williams: "Novel Temporalities and the Beings of Fiction"
R. John Williams is associate professor of English at Yale University, and author of The Buddha in the Machine: Art, Technology, and the Meeting of East and West (Yale University Press, 2014), winner of the Harry Levin Prize for the Best First Book Published in the Field of Comparative Literature by the American Comparative Literature Association. He is currently working on a book manuscript titled World Time.
This event is free and open to the public. No registration is required.
The conference will provide lunch, for all attendees, on Friday, November 6. Please RSVP here, for the luncheon, if you are able to join us!
Are the novel and world literature mutually constitutive, at least in part, or fundamentally opposed in important ways? How have the disparate politics, economics, translation practices, cultural institutions, and more of a global modernity stretching across centuries shaped the novel? This conference brings together over 150 scholars and three distinguished keynote speakers in order to probe these and other questions. We look forward to welcoming you to Pittsburgh for SNS 2016.
Jonathan Arac and Gayle Rogers, co-organizers
Department of English, University of Pittsburgh
Tom McCarthy is a writer and artist whose work has been translated into more than twenty languages. His first novel, Remainder, which deals with questions of trauma and repetition, won the 2008 Believer Book Award and is currently being adapted for cinema. His third, C, which explores the relationship between melancholia and technological media, was a finalist in the 2010 Booker Prize. McCarthy is also author of the nonfiction book Tintin and the Secret of Literature; of the novel Men in Space, set in a Central Europe rapidly disintegrating after the collapse of communism; and of numerous essays that have appeared in publications such as The New York Times,The London Review of Books, Harper’s and Artforum. In addition, he is founder and General Secretary of the International Necronautical Society (INS), a semi-fictitious avant-garde network of writers, philosophers and artists. In 2013 he was awarded the inaugural Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction by Yale University. His latest novel,Satin Island, was published in February 2015.
Katie Trumpener is Emily Sanford Professor of Comparative Literature and English at Yale University. Her publications include Bardic Nationalism: The Romantic Novel and the British Empire, The Cambridge Companion to Fiction of the Romantic Period (co-edited with Richard Maxwell), and many articles on literary and film history and visual culture (including on the European reception of the Arabian Nights, and Jane Austen reception among colonial New Woman novelists and British modernists). A forthcoming collection, The Viewing Platform: Perspectives on the Panorama, edited with Timothy Barringer, explores nineteenth and twentieth-century panoramic painting and film. She is finishing a book on twentieth-century German film culture, and working on a book on European modernism and memories of early childhood.
Jed Esty is the Vartan Gregorian Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of A Shrinking Island: Modernism and National Culture in England (Princeton, 2004) and Unseasonable Youth: Modernism, Colonialism, and the Fiction of Development (Oxford, 2012). With Joe Cleary and Colleen Lye, he co-edited a 2012 special issue of MLQ on “Peripheral Realisms;” with Ania Loomba, Suvir Kaul, Antoinette Burton, and Matti Bunzl, he co-edited Postcolonial Studies and Beyond (Duke 2005). He is currently working on a new project entitled Cold War Victorians: How the British Imagination Shaped American Power.
Call for Papers
The Novel in or against World Literature
SNS at Pitt 2016
The Society for Novel Studies (SNS) invites proposals for fifteen-minute papers to be given at its biennial conference held at the University of Pittsburgh, May 13-14, 2016. For more information, visit http://novel.trinity.duke.edu/sns/2016-conference
Proposals should not exceed 200 words and are due by September 7, 2015. They should be sent to individual panel organizers at the email addresses listed below. Once confirmed, all presenters must join the SNS and register for the conference.
Uneven Development and the Novel
Susan Andrade, University of Pittsburgh
Unevenness is a feature of all literary change. Uneven development seeks to name social and political difference in relation to literary change. For all its limits, The World Republic of Letters offers one example of how literary development is tied to social relations, particularly the literary and linguistic relations in Ireland and Latin America. This panel does not seek to challenge or extend Casanova -- except that we are not as teleological about form as Casanova is. It seeks to chart unevenness more precisely, more locally, and with as much attention to the Global South.
The New (Post-)Humanisms and the Problem of Genre
Elizabeth Anker, Cornell University
This panel attempts to think two seemingly unrelated debates in relation to one another: current debates about genre and about humanism in the aftermath of poststructuralism. In recent literature and theory, the status of genre is newly under negotiation. While some speak of the waning of genre, genre fiction is on the rise, as are experimental modes of writing that intentionally blur generic boundaries. At once, the mounting method wars within critical theory have, for some, entailed a return to or rethinking of humanism and its legacy. How are these two developments related?
African Writing, the “Global Novel,” and the Question of World Literature
Magalí Armillas-Tiseyra, Penn State University
This panel proposes to explore the relationship of the contemporary African novel to the category of World Literature. African literary studies has long grappled with varying scales of nation, region (within and beyond the nation), continent, and hemisphere, as well as with the international circulations of cultural production (flowing North to South and vice versa). The success of writers such as Teju Cole, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Helon Habila, and NoViolet Bulawayo (to name a few)—African writers who do not work or live exclusively in Africa—has renewed the critical conversation about the definition of African literature and the specificity of its location. Aiming to addresses these questions, phrases such as “global African writer,” “post-national,” and “Afropolitan” have recently entered the critical lexicon. With this in mind, this panel will ask: what models of World Literature are possible when we take African literature as its starting case? To what extent should existing paradigms of national as well as World literature be revised? And, finally, what critical terminology is necessary to account for the complex circulations of these contemporary writers, their texts, and the novel form itself?
Assia Djebar in the World
Ben Baer, Princeton University
This panel attends to the literary works—in particular the novels—of the late Assia Djebar. A writer of the Mediterranean, of Africa and Europe, France and the Maghreb; a feminist and activist, Djebar in her writing challenges many of the identitarian or ethnocentrically cosmopolitan axioms of World Literature. The panel intends to consider the concrete detail of Djebar's fiction as a close engagement with colonial and postcolonial violence; the predicaments of women in the postcolonial state; histories of complicity; the difficulties of ethnocentrisms, identiarianisms, and fundamentalisms of many kinds; and the imagining of alliances across unpredictable lines. We ask how it is possible today to read Djebar as a global figure against prevailing globalizations (capitalist or Islamic); and what the place of the novel might be as the medium of such reflections.
The Novel in or against Neoliberalism
Timothy Bewes, Brown University
“Neoliberal rationality,” writes Wendy Brown, “disseminates the model of the market to all domains and activities ... and configures human beings exhaustively as market actors, always, only, and everywhere as homo oeconomicus.” As an extension or universalization of economic logic, neoliberalism functions in at least two modes, both of which are relevant to the study of the novel: as an ideology, and as a form of governance. In critical commentary on neoliberalism the difference between these two modes is often eclipsed or obscured. This panel considers the World Literature hypothesis in the light of the economizing logic of neoliberalism, and proposes a series of questions: To what extent are data-driven modes of analysis complicit with the depoliticizing economism of neoliberal logic? What is the future of the novel, or novel criticism, when all models of knowledge and experience seem reducible to algorithmic patterns of behavior (Vilém Flusser)? What would be the political significance of a literature whose origin, implications and effects were entirely programmable? What orders of significance can be said to survive the encroachment of biopolitics into our approaches and categories of reading? The substance of these questions may be summed up in a single formulation: Can any elements of novels, or the novel, be said to escape the economizing effects of neoliberalism?
The Optics of Novelization: Time, Geography, and Epistemology
Paul Bové, University of Pittsburgh
This panel will present papers that theorize the novel in relation to space and geography--national vs. world literatures; epistemology--new forms of information and the speed of their circulation as in finance; time--conditions of form that create or avoid anamorphosis in conditions of celerity. Careful considerations of how the novel functions now and how novels in their history name and embody a formal problem of perception and knowledge formation. Staging as well a contest over the priorities of space and time in novelization and novel as knowledge in relation to information. Speed and celerity inflect epistemologies, temporalities, and geographies of form.
Reading Contemporary Fiction: Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend
Amanda Claybaugh, Harvard University
This is one of a pair of "Reading Novels Together" panels, the other run by John Plotz and Deidre Lynch (one per day of the conference). Each novel (one in English, the other not, but both widely translated and circulating as “world novels”) to be presented by a pair of conveners to a pre-admitted seminar of up to 20 participants. Sign-up required; reading the whole novel required. No papers prepared in advance, though the two conveners will come equipped with talking points to get the discussion off the ground. No end product envisioned other than the pleasure of reading in concert with scholars from diverse fields.
The Novel across World-Literatures
César Domínguez, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela
The aim of this panel is to explore the case of novels that criss-cross "world-literatures"—meaning fragments of the literary world, “autonomous” sections of the planet that seem to provide their own resources and linkages for novelistic production—through the lens of translation, which mobilizes them across diverse fields that variously unite and further fragment them. Papers might consider novels that move across different comparative contexts, from one multilingual region of the world to another, so that the novel's beginning is comparative in a relatively local way before moving out to other regional contexts. How, then, do regions and micro-worlds mediate the single-scale distinction between nation and world?
Print Capitalism in the (Post)Colony
Nergis Erturk, Penn State University
This panel seeks papers examining the (post)colonial novel in the context of histories of what Anderson called “print-capitalism.” Possible topics may include: the novel form and serialization, vernacularization, translation, and/or philological revolutions of the 19th century; orality and print culture; the publics of the (post)colonial novel; Bildungsroman in a gendered context; authorial sovereignty and (dis)possession.
The Sea and Atopical space
Penny Fielding, University of Edinburgh
The sea allows the world to be imagined as a global entirety seemingly without borders or geographical demarcation. Yet oceans may be superscribed with the ideological markers of war, commerce, science, or sport. The panel would address questions of fictional representation when atopical space becomes ideologically charged and would trace worldwide journeys in the development of the novel.
The World of the Novel: Non-Eurocentric Visions of Cosmopolis in Twentieth and Twenty-first Century Novels
Ronald Judy, University of Pittsburgh
This panel explores how novels produced in periods and zones of disputed nationalism problematize dominant theorizations of the cosmopolitan world. Chief concerns are: the representation of space and time in relation to historical change (What is progress?), as well as the nature of the person articulated in the non-Eurocentric cosmopolis.
The Age of the “Anglophone” Novel: World Literature and Its Mediaries
Maryam Khan, Lahore University of Management Sciences, and Aamir Mufti, University of California, Los Angeles
To extend Jonathan Arac’s idea of "The Age of the Novel" further, perhaps we can think of the contemporary moment in the history of World Literature as "The Age of the ‘Anglophone’ Novel." If in the past three decades or so, the Anglophone novel has become a sign of World Literature itself, then what place do vernacular forms hold in this fraught formation? Is the Anglophone novel ever in conversation with non-Western literary and linguistic formations?
Catastrophe and American Literature
Caroline Levander, Rice University
This panel outlines an American cultural and literary history of catastrophe and explores the possibilities of such a history for our contemporary moment as well as for the future we hope to create and inhabit. Historians, anthropologists, geoscientists, scholars of “disaster sociology,” economists, and mathematicians have theorized catastrophe and elaborated its causes and effects, social dimensions, and relationship to history, culture, society, markets, and dynamical systems. As pioneered in the 1960s by René Thom, catastrophe theory has been applied with varying success to different phenomena, including prison riots. But American literary studies has yet to read catastrophe in a sustained and collective manner—despite a long-standing fascination with crisis in general, and despite the emergence of catastrophe as a foundational phenomenon of the modern world.
Please submit your proposal for this panel to Caroline Levander at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Literature of Capitalism: Latin America and the World-systems Novel
Joshua Lund, University of Pittsburgh
If we can understand, or at least theorize, capitalism as a world-historical social relation, then it is not extravagant to understand the novel as its quintessential narrative expression. Only the novel strives, without apology, to match form and content in the attempt at aestheticizing totality in a way that resonates with capitalism’s impulse toward a totalizing logic of accumulation. From El periquillo sarniento to Os sertões, from Cien años de soledad to 2666, Latin American novels have been some of the most ambitious practitioners and trenchant critics of the narrative production of totalizing world-systems. How do we reflect on this history of writing today? What is its future? This panel seeks papers that address aspects of this theme.
Beyond English: The Non-Anglophone “World Novel”
B. Venkat Mani, University of California, Davis
In the last two decades, non-Anglophone novelists such as Bolaño, Murakami, Pamuk, Petterson and others have re-imagined the novelistic form and content. With huge readerships in their homelands and abroad, their works have challenged the hegemony of the global Anglophone novel. Is there a “world novel” beyond English? How is the non-Anglophone novel reshaping our understanding of contemporary world literature? How do we evaluate the non-Anglophone novel beyond its reception and circulation in the English-speaking world? These questions are central to this panel, which seeks to shift focus from the global Anglophone novel as the only major genre of contemporary world literature, thinking about what constitutes technical, sociological, and interpretative knowledge in the study of global and world fiction.
Platforms of Global Fiction
John Marx, University of California, Davis, and Aarthi Vadde, Duke University
Recent interventions in world literature, sociologies of literature, and the digital humanities suggest we rethink what counts as the content, form, media, and context of global fiction. Yet those interventions are not typically thought together. One wonders: Is this because identifying and interpreting specific instances of world literature; investigating sociological aspects of novel production, circulation, and consumption; or asking what digital humanities contribute to our knowledge of fiction on a global scale involve fundamentally antagonistic methods or because we have lacked a way of bringing them into fruitful dialog? We bet that productive conversation is possible. Inspired by the MIT Press “Platform Studies” book series overseen by Ian Bogost and Nick Monfort, we suggest “Platforms” as an organizing rubric for bringing together these seemingly divergent approaches to studying and indeed constructing the category of world or global fiction.
In that book series, “platform studies” encourages digital media scholars to examine the role that technical systems (hardware and software platforms) play in the cultural processes of video game design and in the affective experiences of users (players). Among its virtues, platform studies encourages its contributors to think of themselves as collaborating on a collective analysis of content, form, media, and machine. While literary scholars are more than familiar with a range of analytic paradigms, we are less well practiced at assessing their cumulative impact. To address this lack, we invite papers that engage with the notion of literary platforms (a list might include: print and screen hardware, language, genre or form, paratext, etc.) via diverse methodological approaches. We hope this panel will provide new ways for thinking about what constitutes technical, sociological, and interpretative knowledge in the study of global and world fiction.
Dystopian Novels of the Twenty-first Century
Giuseppina Mecchia, University of Pittsburgh
As novelistic forms, dystopias have a long tradition in the literary world. Their ethical and political ambiguity, as well as their generic flexibility, make them a form of choice for several highly controversial authors in different national and linguistic contexts. Our panel is open to the inclusion of certain historical novels, which we will read as "dystopias of the past": in this particular form, historical events are re-written in various far-fetched ways, according to conspiratorial, reactionary or depressive modes of thinking. Ultimately, the panel wishes to re-examine the ethical and political import of the novel form in the 21st century through the careful examination of one of its most enduring and popular genres.
Populations and World Literature
Mario Ortiz-Robles, University of Wisconsin
The corpus we know as “world literature” is organized according to nations, languages, and genres. What would it be like to conceive of world literature as a function of populations? Attention to the categories used to describe populations might yield new configurations that transcend the way world literature gets historicized. Rubrics such as a “literature of the poor,” “the novel of orphanhood,” or the “crowd in fiction” would certainly overlap but also go beyond traditional disciplinary fields, languages, and national literatures. Furthermore, older categories, such as the novel of adultery and the Bildungsroman, could be revitalized when submitted to the conceptual pressure of biopolitics. The point is not to privilege the sorts of rationalizations that go into making biological life the object of political organization; it is to use these categories to make visible the structures that are already in place in the creation of a corpus we call “world literature.” This panel invites papers that address the concept of population in the novel from any methodological perspective. Some of the questions that could inform the panel include: What sorts of reading practices can be used to read the populations of world literature? What is the role of the novel in understanding the world as a set of populations? Are novelistic cycles and encyclopedic fictions uniquely suited to convey population dynamics or do shorter forms offer a better perspective on populations and world literature?
Reading Contemporary Fiction: Ali Smith's How to Be Both
John Plotz, Brandeis University
This is one of a pair of "Reading Novels Together" panels, the other run by Amanda Claybaugh and Caroline Levine (one per day of the conference). Each novel (one in English the other not, but both widely translated and circulating as “world novels”) to be presented by a pair of conveners to a pre-admitted seminar of up to 20 participants. Sign-up required; reading the whole novel required. No papers prepared in advance, though the two conveners will come equipped with talking points to get the discussion off the ground. No end product envisioned other than the pleasure of reading in concert with scholars from diverse fields.
Presentism and Pastism
Bruce Robbins, Columbia University
The manifesto of the V21 group states, among its other points, that "one outcome of post-historicist interpretation may be a new openness to presentism: an awareness that our interest in [past periods] is motivated by certain features of our own moment… Presentism is not a sin, but nor are all forms of presentism equally valuable. The variations of and alternatives to presentism as such have not yet been adequately described or theorized." There is also such a thing as pastism. It too is arguably not a sin. Its alternatives too need to be more adequately described and theorized. The aim of this panel is to apply these considerations to the novel.
The Problematic of Connection
Ellen Rooney, Brown University, and Khachig Tölölyan, Wesleyan University
World literature is a polemical field, in many respects still murky, ill-defined, and baggy, as is the form dubbed the global novel. The diverging models that focus on mobility, circulation, and exchange, or on the dissemination of the novel form, both offer critiques of the domination, inequality and neoliberal empire that characterize the field of world literature. Yet critics of both remain dissatisfied with their apparent reinscriptions of the logics of center and periphery, cosmopolitan and parochial.
A key component of ambient notions of world literature is a celebration of connection, which seems to be an inescapable element of the global novel. On this account, global novels are made possible by proliferating transnational, cross-border connections, by the migrant mobility of people, capital, and traveling theory, a mobility that leads to multiplicity and minority within national spaces and arguably to the global novel and its urgent ethics of connection. However, in the study of the global novel, ethics has been reduced to the problem of how to denounce and redress inequalities within a generally welcome system of new connections. Might we change the question? We invite papers that interrogate the problematic of connection in the global novel. Can novels that dissent from the current ethic of connection and express reservations, or even hostility, towards connection, count as world literature? Do novels that inscribe incommensurabilty and untranslatablity, that lament the costs, look away from, or are suspicious of connection, offer an alternative vision of the world and world literature? Can a diasporic novel reject hybridity? Is there a logic of the sedentary or misanthropy, solitude or isolation by which a global novel might project another world? What axiomatics of connection have to be rethought by our critical discourse to accommodate such texts?
Legacies and Limits of Said
Judy Suh, Duquesne University
This panel seeks to illuminate the legacies and limits of Edward Said’s groundbreaking critical works. Which of Said’s lines of thinking ought to be taken up and extended in discussions of contemporary and historical fiction? Which ought to be revised in light of new developments in literature, criticism, or history?
Genre Fiction and World Literature
Rebecca Walkowitz, Rutgers University
What is the relationship between genre fiction and world literature? Is genre fiction the quintessence of world literature? Or is it the opposite of world literature? How does the analysis of genre fiction change, refine, or recalibrate the concept of world literature? How does the analysis of world literature alter what genre fiction is and does? Where do the two histories intersect?
Generations and Contemporary Fiction
Jeffrey Williams, Carnegie Mellon University
Investigating the concept of generations and how it applies, and doesn't apply, to contemporary fiction. How does one's generational position shape identity and particular cultures? How does it show in literature? Is it primarily a national cultural distinction? or are there world generations?
Ethnohistory, the Novel, and World Literature
Yi Zheng, University of New South Wales
Novels about place, traveling between places or historical transformations of a place can be understood as ethnohistories in fictional form. This includes the roman fleuve, regional novels, native-soil fiction, travel novels and gazetteer-style historical fiction. These narratives about local worlds, changes of world in locality and traversing different worlds are place specific and location based. They delineate the minutiae of life and feelings or moments of great change of a particular place at a particular time, record with an ethnographic eye different customs, habits, and structure of feelings, or the routes, vessels and changing mind and body between locations. The session proposes to revisit these place-specific novels, and ask questions such as how might they work for or against the idea of a world literature, in particular how as specific stories of everyday world change and epic place history they contribute to or complicate the novel as a prototype in world literature. Or how might they compel redefinitions of the world and world literature in spatial-conceptual and formal terms.
Society for Novel Studies Biennial Conference
The Novel in or against World Literature
May 13-14, 2016
Wyndham Pittsburgh University Center
Hosted by the University of Pittsburgh
Co-organizers: Jonathan Arac and Gayle Rogers
Katie Trumpener, Professor of Comparative Literature and English, Yale University
Jed Esty, Vartan Gregorian Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania
Tom McCarthy, author of Remainder and Satin Island
More details forthcoming, including CFP. Contact: email@example.com
"What is the Contemporary Novel?" is the second edition of the novel-centered symposium organized by graduate students at Duke University.
The symposium took place on October 31st and November 1st and featured Jane Eliiott (King's College), Justin Neuman (Yale), and Hector Hoyos (Stanford) who presented papers on various aspects of the novel in its contemporary form.
Here are a few photos from the event held at Duke University's Franklin Humanities Center.
A few weeks ago, graduate students in English and Literature at Duke University and UNC, Chapel Hill convened a two-day symposium on the contemporary novel.
Jane Eliiott (King's College), Justin Neuman (Yale), and Hector Hoyos (Stanford) presented papers at the event, after which the floor was opened for graduate student responses and general discussion.
Below is the description of the Symposium.
What is contemporary about the contemporary novel? By no means all recent novels suggest that the novel form—and presumably the cultures that produce and consume this art form--are undergoing something on the order of a paradigm shift. Those novels that do register such an event ask us to consign old worlds, scientific methods, forms of agency (human and otherwise), along with literary genres to the dustbin, forcing us to try out new ways of imagining human life. The novels we want to consider “contemporary” exploit the world-making power of their respective national traditions to make sense of this event, not only by critiquing the categories of self, household, property, and nation that organize traditional fiction and the world it asks us to assume is out there; these novels also try out alternative ways of inhabiting that world and engaging both the social forces that blow it apart and the affective glue that holds it together.
To emphasize the “contemporary” component of “the contemporary novel” automatically raises the question of how novels from various national traditions identify themselves with the present moment in the history of the novel, the nation, international capitalism, and the subjects that populate the novel’s version of community. It will be the job of this seminar to ask what order of event distinguishes this moment in the manner of such earlier periods as, say, “the Enlightenment,” “the Age of Empire,” and so forth. If we determine that no such event marks this period, on the other hand, we’ll have to ask whether and how the contemporary novel calls periodicity itself into question and how we would then historicize such presentism?
If we shift the emphasis to the “novel” component of “the contemporary novel,” we raise the no less difficult question of genre, medium, form, or style (call it what you will). Is there some cluster of stylistic features, themes or topics by means of which contemporary fiction makes itself formally coherent? How do these formal changes turn the novel away from a national readership in order to address a global readership? Do the formal changes responsible for the new “world novel” support or challenge revisionary philosophical models of human reason, emotion, ethics, secularism, governmentality, sexuality, mediation, aesthetics.
As a composite concept, “the contemporary novel” is productively invertible: How does it remodel the traditional “world” of the novel—its scope and the kind of event that shapes it? What social, sensory, and affective qualities are required to inhabit it? How does the novel in turn ask a readership, presumably not the national readership of Benedict Anderson’s “imagined community,” to reimagine its relation to the real? What inducement do such novels offer their readers? How does fiction supplement other explanations of the event requiring such changes in the categories that organize our world?
The answers to some if not all of these questions hinge on the issue of how we decide which recent novels by which authors count as contemporary and which do not. If we assume that the contemporary novel makes ethical and political demands on its readers, which novels are making these demands? If we assume that the contemporary novel is not interested in garnering the reader’s sympathy for its characters, which novels are eliciting new modes of affective engagement? If we assume the contemporary novel refuses either to set up or invert distinctions between the center and the periphery, what novels are offering these new models of community?