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Photos From The 2014 SNS Conference

Members of the Society for Novel Studies convened this past weekend at the University of Utah for the society's bi-annual conference, titled Land and the Novel. In attendance were scholars of the novel from various institutions in the country. Ngugi wa Thiongo and Ursala Heise presented the plenary addresses. 

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The Program


Friday, April 4 10 am-­‐12 noon

1. Working the Land (Alpine)
Chair: Ellen Rooney (Brown University)
Panelists: Mark Browning (Johnson County Community College), “‘How

You Gonna Keep Em Down on the Farm’: Rural Life as Eden

in American Fiction”
Elizabeth Duquette (Gettysburg College), “Building on the Land

in The Rise of Silas Lapham”
Nick Young (St. John’s University) “‘Acting American’: American

as a Lived Ontology”

2. Transnational Novels (City Creek)
Chair: Kathryn Stockton (University of Utah)
Panelists: Robert Colson (Brigham Young University), “David Mitchell’s

Cloud Atlas, Metalepsis, and the Collapse of the Global” Yogita Goyal (University of California, Los Angeles), “What Was

Postcolonial Literature? Race, Diaspora, and the

Afropolitan in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah” Nirmala Iswari (University of Massachusetts, Amherst),

“Countering the Motions of Globalization: Repose as

Resistance in The Pick-­‐Up?”
Neelofer Qadir (University of Massachusetts), “Unpacking the

‘jadoo of the colonies’: Dispossession in Sea of Poppies”

3. Geology, Geological Time, and the Novel (Bonneville)
Chair: Jeffrey McCarthy (Westminster College)
Panelists: Ted Howell (Temple University), “The Earth Beating Time:

Howards End in the Anthropocene”
Mario Ortiz-­‐Robles (University of Wisconsin, Madison),

“Hardy’s Wessex and the Natural History of Form” Beth Wightman (California State University, Northridge),

“Virginia Woolf, Halford Mackinder, and the Island

Vernacular”
Abigail Droge (Stanford University), “A Panorama of Passions:

Land in Balzac’s Comédie Humaine”

Friday, April 4
12:15-­‐2:14, Luncheon/Lecture
Plenary Speaker: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (University of California, Irvine) (Douglas Ballroom)

 

Friday, April 4 2:30-­‐4:30 pm

4. Land, Law, and Property (Alpine)
Chair: Matthew Titolo (West Virginia University)
Panelists: Dana Lloyd (Syracuse University): “Indians Make the Best

Cowboys”
Leila Mansouri (University of California, Berkeley): “Properties

of the Novel in America: Locke, Land, and Labor in

Sheppard Lee”
Marc Roark (Savannah Law School): “Robert Penn Warren’s

Southern Exceptionalism in Space and Place”
Tania de Miguel Magro (West Virginia University): “The Spatial

Politics of El Buscón”

5. Homelands Real and Imaginary (Bonneville)
Chair: Jeremy Rosen (University of Utah)
Panelists: Robert Caserio (Pennsylvania State University): “Lawrence,

Sons and Lovers, and Italian Land”
Lauren Shohet (Villanova University): “Cavalier Clay: Thinking

Native Soilin Chabon’s Amazing Adventures”
Ryan Siemers (University of Utah): “Magical Land in Graham

Swift’s Waterland”
Jeffrey McCarthy (Westminster College): “Modernism’s

Country: the New Materialism and the Limits of Englishness in 1928”

6. The Novel Beyond the Nation (City Creek)
Chair: Robert Colson (Brigham Young University)
Panelists: Ellen Rosenman (University of Kentucky): “Sons of the Soil:

Victorian Penny Fiction and National Belonging”
Andrea Haslanger (Tufts University): “Cosmopolitanism Within

and Beyond the State: The Case of Humphry Clinker” Nasser Mufti (University of Illinois, Chicago): “Un-­‐Imagining

Community in Bleak House”
R. John Williams (Yale University): “Futures Beyond the Nation

in Philip K. Dick”

 

7. FantasyLand, Virtuality, and Speculative Geography (Officers’ Club, East) Chair: Scott Black (University of Utah)
Panelists: Alf Seegert (University of Utah): “Desert of the Real, Oasis of

the Virtual: Technostalgic Pastoral in À Rebours and Ready

Player One”
Julie Fiorelli (University of Illinois, Chicago): “The Land Re-­‐

worked: Race in Utopian and Dystopian Responses to

Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward”
Katherine C. Henderson (Washington University): “Urban

Fantasies of Pastoral Sprawl in China Miéville’s Perdido” Rebekah Baglini (University of Chicago) and Jonathan

Schroeder (University of Chicago): “Nostalgia, the Novel, and Database Epistemology”

Friday, April 4
5-­‐7 pm, Reception (Officers’ Club, South) Open bar and hors d’oeuvres

Saturday, April 5 10 am-­‐12 noon

8. Land, Territory, Nation, Empire (City Creek)
Chair: Robert Caserio (Pennsylvania State University)
Panelists: Anne Jamison (University of Utah): “Land Surveyor?”

Sean Ward (Duke University): “Territory, Language, Thought: George Lamming’s Objects”

Mishuana Goeman (University of California, Los Angeles): “On-­‐going Storms and Struggles: Trauma and Resource Exploitation in Solar Storms”

Rijuta Mehta (Brown University): “Reading Anticoloniality in The Sign of the Four”

9. Genres of Land: Saga, Pastoral, Georgic and the Novel (Alpine)
Chair: Lauren Shohet (Villanova University)
Panelists: Scott Black (University of Utah): “Adventure, Land, and the

Limits of Possession in The Journey to the West” English Brooks (Snow College): “‘After We Ate the Dogs:’

Cabeza de Vaca’s Relación and the New World

Picaresque”
Robert Chibka (Boston College): “‘And Italy’: A Pentimental

Journey, or, Off the Map with Imlac and Yorick”

 

10. Blood and Soil/Race and Land/Autochthony and Strangers (Bonneville) Chair: Vincent Lloyd (Syracuse University)
Panelists: Jared Hickman (The Johns Hopkins University): “‘Just a Dogged

Little Outpost in the Sand Hills, Within Striking Distance of

Kansas’: Place and Race in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead” Benjamin Balthaser (Indiana University, South Bend): “The

Mountains of the Surrounded: National Belonging and Anti-­‐Colonial Resistance in the Novels of D'Arcy McNickle and Richard Wright”

11. Ecological Disaster and Post-­‐Apocalyptic Territory (Officers’ Club, East) Chair: Andrew Hoberek (University of Missouri)
Panelists: Robert Kennedy (University of Utah): “Where Man Himself is a

Visitor”
Emily Steinlight (University of Pennsylvania): “The Geopolitics

and Biopolitics of Boundlessness”
Theodore Martin (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee):

“Survival Skills”
Mathias Nilges (St. Francis Xavier University): “Nostalgia for

Immediacy—The Contemporary Zeitroman and the Time of the Post-­‐Apocalypse”

Saturday, April 5
12:15-­‐2:15 Luncheon/Lecture
Plenary Speaker: Ursula Heise (University of California, Los Angeles) (Douglas Ballroom)

Saturday, April 5 2:30-­‐4:30 pm

12. Country and City, Redux (City Creek)
Chair: Kate Flint (University of Southern California) Panelists: Hannah Walser (Stanford University): “Cognitive

Demographies: Community Size and Psychic Opacity in

Early American Literature”
Ben Parker (Columbia University): “The Displacement of Affect

in Finance Capital: From Trollope’s London to Barsetshire” Matthew Price (Pennsylvania State University): “Hardy Country

and the City: Towards a Critical Literary Geography of

‘Wessex’”
Neal Carroll (University of Utah): “‘Uncouth Objects,’

‘Barbarous Satisfactions’: Landscape and Thomas Hardy’s Narrative Method”

 

13. Territory and the Extra-­‐territorial (Officers’ Club, East)
Chair: David Glimp (University of Colorado)
Panelists: Karen Jacobs (University of Colorado): “Virtual Nature, Virtual

Commons: Kathryn Davis’s Post-­‐Propertied Apocalypse” Jeremy Rosen (University of Utah): “Escaping David Mitchell’s Dejima: Generic and Narrative Confinement on an Extra-­‐

Territorial Island”
Philip Joseph (University of Colorado, Denver): “The Child

Soldier and the Building of Vernacular Languages” Adele Bealer (University of Utah): “On the Border of the

Ecological Body: Material Memoir in Paul Chadwick’s Concrete”

14. Marco? Polo! Travel, Wandering, Peripeteia and the Novel (Alpine) Chair: Matt Wickman (Brigham Young University)
Panelists: Rachael Dewitt (University of Utah), “Contemplative and

Material Oscillations: Arranging the Mind and Body in

Moby-­‐Dick”
Jennifer MacGregor (University of California, Los Angeles):

“Necessary Hybridity: The Narrative Construction of

History in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines”
Ji Eun Lee (University of California, Los Angeles): “Jamaican

Land, the Great House, and the ‘Ruination’ of Englishness in Michelle Cliff’s Abeng”

15. The New Indigeneity in the Americas (Bonneville)
Chair: Lourdes Alberto (University of Utah)
Panelists: Christine Diane Allen (University of Utah): “A Native America

Worth Living In”
Elise Boxer (University of Utah): “‘Playing Indian’: Music,

Scripture and the Making of a ‘Lamanite’ identity”
Gloria Chacon (University of California, San Diego): “Indigenous

Writers and the Novel in Mexico”

 

Sunday, April 6 10 am-­‐12 noon

16. Manifest Destinies (City Creek)
Chair: Jonathan Arac (University of Pittsburgh)
Panelists: Dale Enggass (University of Utah): “Unoccupied Territories:

Empty Spaces and Absent Faces in Moby-­‐Dick”
Jessica Hurley (University of Pennsylvania): “Ground Zero at

the City on a Hill: James Baldwin on the American

Promised Land”
Wlad Godzich (University of California, Irvine): “When is Here:

Andrzej Stasiuk’s Topopoetics”
Elizabeth Oliphant (University of Pittsburgh): “A ‘desert

country, where it is hard for men to live’: Manifest Destinies and Indigeneity in Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop”

17. Land versus Place (Bonneville)
Chair: Nancy Armstrong (Duke University)
Panelists: Stuart Burrows (Brown University): “In Another’s Place:

Regionalism’s Imagined Communities”
Brian Shetler (Drew University): “The Places Within: Analyzing

Space in E. M. Forster's Maurice”
Antoine Traisnel (Cornell University): “The Rule of Capture: The

Purchase of America in James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales” 

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PHOTOS--Novel and the Anthropocene Symposium

On the 19th of October, the Brown and Duke offices of NOVEL hosted a symposium titled Novel and the Anthropocene.

Matthew Taylor (English, UNC, Chapel Hill), Tobias Boes (German, Notre Dame) and Noah Heringman (English, University of Missouri) gave a series of talks on how the question of the anthropocene bears on the form, history, and theory of the novel.

A total of six duke English grad students were on hand to respond to each talk, after which the floor was opened for questions and discussion. The event was well-attended and struck up rich and lively conversations around what it means for the novel, as a form, to think geologically.

NOVEL would like to thank the speakers, respondents, and those in attendance for such an engaging and productive intellectual exchange. 

Here are the photos. 

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OFFICIAL PROGRAM: 2014 SNS Conference---Land and The Novel, April 4-6, University of Utah

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Friday, April 4 10 am-­‐12 noon

1. Working the Land (Alpine)
Chair: Ellen Rooney (Brown University)
Panelists: Mark Browning (Johnson County Community College), “‘How

You Gonna Keep Em Down on the Farm’: Rural Life as Eden

in American Fiction”
Elizabeth Duquette (Gettysburg College), “Building on the Land

in The Rise of Silas Lapham”
Nick Young (St. John’s University) “‘Acting American’: American

as a Lived Ontology”

2. Transnational Novels (City Creek)
Chair: Kathryn Stockton (University of Utah)
Panelists: Robert Colson (Brigham Young University), “David Mitchell’s

Cloud Atlas, Metalepsis, and the Collapse of the Global” Yogita Goyal (University of California, Los Angeles), “What Was

Postcolonial Literature? Race, Diaspora, and the

Afropolitan in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah” Nirmala Iswari (University of Massachusetts, Amherst),

“Countering the Motions of Globalization: Repose as

Resistance in The Pick-­‐Up?”
Neelofer Qadir (University of Massachusetts), “Unpacking the

‘jadoo of the colonies’: Dispossession in Sea of Poppies”

3. Geology, Geological Time, and the Novel (Bonneville)
Chair: Jeffrey McCarthy (Westminster College)
Panelists: Ted Howell (Temple University), “The Earth Beating Time:

Howards End in the Anthropocene”
Mario Ortiz-­‐Robles (University of Wisconsin, Madison),

“Hardy’s Wessex and the Natural History of Form” Beth Wightman (California State University, Northridge),

“Virginia Woolf, Halford Mackinder, and the Island

Vernacular”
Abigail Droge (Stanford University), “A Panorama of Passions:

Land in Balzac’s Comédie Humaine”

Friday, April 4
12:15-­‐2:14, Luncheon/Lecture
Plenary Speaker: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (University of California, Irvine) (Douglas Ballroom)


Friday, April 4 2:30-­‐4:30 pm

4. Land, Law, and Property (Alpine)
Chair: Matthew Titolo (West Virginia University)
Panelists: Dana Lloyd (Syracuse University): “Indians Make the Best

Cowboys”
Leila Mansouri (University of California, Berkeley): “Properties

of the Novel in America: Locke, Land, and Labor in

Sheppard Lee”
Marc Roark (Savannah Law School): “Robert Penn Warren’s

Southern Exceptionalism in Space and Place”
Tania de Miguel Magro (West Virginia University): “The Spatial

Politics of El Buscón”

5. Homelands Real and Imaginary (Bonneville)
Chair: Jeremy Rosen (University of Utah)
Panelists: Robert Caserio (Pennsylvania State University): “Lawrence,

Sons and Lovers, and Italian Land”
Lauren Shohet (Villanova University): “Cavalier Clay: Thinking

Native Soilin Chabon’s Amazing Adventures”
Ryan Siemers (University of Utah): “Magical Land in Graham

Swift’s Waterland”
Jeffrey McCarthy (Westminster College): “Modernism’s

Country: the New Materialism and the Limits of Englishness in 1928”

6. The Novel Beyond the Nation (City Creek)
Chair: Robert Colson (Brigham Young University)
Panelists: Ellen Rosenman (University of Kentucky): “Sons of the Soil:

Victorian Penny Fiction and National Belonging”
Andrea Haslanger (Tufts University): “Cosmopolitanism Within

and Beyond the State: The Case of Humphry Clinker” Nasser Mufti (University of Illinois, Chicago): “Un-­‐Imagining

Community in Bleak House”
R. John Williams (Yale University): “Futures Beyond the Nation

in Philip K. Dick”


7. FantasyLand, Virtuality, and Speculative Geography (Officers’ Club, East) Chair: Scott Black (University of Utah)
Panelists: Alf Seegert (University of Utah): “Desert of the Real, Oasis of

the Virtual: Technostalgic Pastoral in À Rebours and Ready

Player One”
Julie Fiorelli (University of Illinois, Chicago): “The Land Re-­‐

worked: Race in Utopian and Dystopian Responses to

Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward”
Katherine C. Henderson (Washington University): “Urban

Fantasies of Pastoral Sprawl in China Miéville’s Perdido” Rebekah Baglini (University of Chicago) and Jonathan

Schroeder (University of Chicago): “Nostalgia, the Novel, and Database Epistemology”

Friday, April 4
5-­‐7 pm, Reception (Officers’ Club, South) Open bar and hors d’oeuvres

Saturday, April 5 10 am-­‐12 noon

8. Land, Territory, Nation, Empire (City Creek)
Chair: Robert Caserio (Pennsylvania State University)
Panelists: Anne Jamison (University of Utah): “Land Surveyor?”

Sean Ward (Duke University): “Territory, Language, Thought: George Lamming’s Objects”

Mishuana Goeman (University of California, Los Angeles): “On-­‐going Storms and Struggles: Trauma and Resource Exploitation in Solar Storms”

Rijuta Mehta (Brown University): “Reading Anticoloniality in The Sign of the Four”

9. Genres of Land: Saga, Pastoral, Georgic and the Novel (Alpine)
Chair: Lauren Shohet (Villanova University)
Panelists: Scott Black (University of Utah): “Adventure, Land, and the

Limits of Possession in The Journey to the West” English Brooks (Snow College): “‘After We Ate the Dogs:’

Cabeza de Vaca’s Relación and the New World

Picaresque”
Robert Chibka (Boston College): “‘And Italy’: A Pentimental

Journey, or, Off the Map with Imlac and Yorick”


10. Blood and Soil/Race and Land/Autochthony and Strangers (Bonneville) Chair: Vincent Lloyd (Syracuse University)
Panelists: Jared Hickman (The Johns Hopkins University): “‘Just a Dogged

Little Outpost in the Sand Hills, Within Striking Distance of

Kansas’: Place and Race in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead” Benjamin Balthaser (Indiana University, South Bend): “The

Mountains of the Surrounded: National Belonging and Anti-­‐Colonial Resistance in the Novels of D'Arcy McNickle and Richard Wright”

11. Ecological Disaster and Post-­‐Apocalyptic Territory (Officers’ Club, East) Chair: Andrew Hoberek (University of Missouri)
Panelists: Robert Kennedy (University of Utah): “Where Man Himself is a

Visitor”
Emily Steinlight (University of Pennsylvania): “The Geopolitics

and Biopolitics of Boundlessness”
Theodore Martin (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee):

“Survival Skills”
Mathias Nilges (St. Francis Xavier University): “Nostalgia for

Immediacy—The Contemporary Zeitroman and the Time of the Post-­‐Apocalypse”

Saturday, April 5
12:15-­‐2:15 Luncheon/Lecture
Plenary Speaker: Ursula Heise (University of California, Los Angeles) (Douglas Ballroom)

Saturday, April 5 2:30-­‐4:30 pm

12. Country and City, Redux (City Creek)
Chair: Kate Flint (University of Southern California) Panelists: Hannah Walser (Stanford University): “Cognitive

Demographies: Community Size and Psychic Opacity in

Early American Literature”
Ben Parker (Columbia University): “The Displacement of Affect

in Finance Capital: From Trollope’s London to Barsetshire” Matthew Price (Pennsylvania State University): “Hardy Country

and the City: Towards a Critical Literary Geography of

‘Wessex’”
Neal Carroll (University of Utah): “‘Uncouth Objects,’

‘Barbarous Satisfactions’: Landscape and Thomas Hardy’s Narrative Method”


13. Territory and the Extra-­‐territorial (Officers’ Club, East)
Chair: David Glimp (University of Colorado)
Panelists: Karen Jacobs (University of Colorado): “Virtual Nature, Virtual

Commons: Kathryn Davis’s Post-­‐Propertied Apocalypse” Jeremy Rosen (University of Utah): “Escaping David Mitchell’s Dejima: Generic and Narrative Confinement on an Extra-­‐

Territorial Island”
Philip Joseph (University of Colorado, Denver): “The Child

Soldier and the Building of Vernacular Languages” Adele Bealer (University of Utah): “On the Border of the

Ecological Body: Material Memoir in Paul Chadwick’s Concrete”

14. Marco? Polo! Travel, Wandering, Peripeteia and the Novel (Alpine) Chair: Matt Wickman (Brigham Young University)
Panelists: Rachael Dewitt (University of Utah), “Contemplative and

Material Oscillations: Arranging the Mind and Body in

Moby-­‐Dick”
Jennifer MacGregor (University of California, Los Angeles):

“Necessary Hybridity: The Narrative Construction of

History in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines”
Ji Eun Lee (University of California, Los Angeles): “Jamaican

Land, the Great House, and the ‘Ruination’ of Englishness in Michelle Cliff’s Abeng”

15. The New Indigeneity in the Americas (Bonneville)
Chair: Lourdes Alberto (University of Utah)
Panelists: Christine Diane Allen (University of Utah): “A Native America

Worth Living In”
Elise Boxer (University of Utah): “‘Playing Indian’: Music,

Scripture and the Making of a ‘Lamanite’ identity”
Gloria Chacon (University of California, San Diego): “Indigenous

Writers and the Novel in Mexico”


Sunday, April 6 10 am-­‐12 noon

16. Manifest Destinies (City Creek)
Chair: Jonathan Arac (University of Pittsburgh)
Panelists: Dale Enggass (University of Utah): “Unoccupied Territories:

Empty Spaces and Absent Faces in Moby-­‐Dick”
Jessica Hurley (University of Pennsylvania): “Ground Zero at

the City on a Hill: James Baldwin on the American

Promised Land”
Wlad Godzich (University of California, Irvine): “When is Here:

Andrzej Stasiuk’s Topopoetics”
Elizabeth Oliphant (University of Pittsburgh): “A ‘desert

country, where it is hard for men to live’: Manifest Destinies and Indigeneity in Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop”

17. Land versus Place (Bonneville)
Chair: Nancy Armstrong (Duke University)
Panelists: Stuart Burrows (Brown University): “In Another’s Place:

Regionalism’s Imagined Communities”
Brian Shetler (Drew University): “The Places Within: Analyzing

Space in E. M. Forster's Maurice”
Antoine Traisnel (Cornell University): “The Rule of Capture: The

Purchase of America in James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales” 

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THE PROSAIC IMAGINARY: Novels and The Everyday, 1750-2000

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From July 1-4, University of Sidney will host a conference on the prosaic imaginary of the novel. See below for more info:

CALL FOR PAPERS

The conference will open up the nuances of the term ‘prosaic’ by exploring the privileged relationship between the novel genre and multiple and complex categories of the ‘everyday’. Building on John Plotz’s notion of the novel as exemplary ‘portable property’, the conference will address the relationship between novel-reading as everyday activity and the novel’s prosaic subject matter, whether this is conceived as material object, cultural practice, or speech act.

Confirmed keynote speakers: Professor Maud Ellmann (Chicago) and Professor John Plotz (Brandeis)

Suggested topics: 

The novel and things
The novel and film/and TV
Readerships of the novel
The novel and gender
The novel and childhood
Queer novels
Psychologies of the novel
Novel genres
The odd or uncategorisable
The secular imagination
Book history and the novel
The novel and the digital everyday
Characters as quasi-persons
Novel worlds
The novel and the institutionalisation of affect
The novel as political action
Temporalities of the novel
The novel and the forms of property
The scale of the novel

Proposals

(200 words) for 20 minute papers or for 3 paper panel sessions should be sent to Vanessa Smith (vanessa.smith@sydney.edu.au) by March 31 2014

To contact conference organizers:  

Go to: http://novelnetwork.org/contact.html

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Ursula K. Heise is a Plenary Speaker at the 2014 SNS Conference

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We are pleased to announce that Ursula Heise is billed to speak at the 2014 SNS Conference on land and the novel. 

Ursula K. Heise teaches in the Department of English and at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA. She is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow and served as President of ASLE (Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment) in 2011.

Her research and teaching focus on contemporary literature, environmental culture in the Americas, Western Europe and Japan, literature and science, globalization theory, and media theory. Her books include Chronoschisms: Time, Narrative, and Postmodernism (Cambridge University Press, 1997), Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global (Oxford University Press, 2008), and Nach der Natur: Das Artensterben und die moderne Kultur (After Nature: Species Extinction and Modern Culture, Suhrkamp, 2010).

She is editor of the bookseries, Literatures, Cultures, and the Environment with Palgrave-Macmillan and co-editor of the series Literature and Contemporary Thought with Routledge. She is currently finishing a book called Where the Wild Things Used to Be: Narrative, Database, and Endangered Species.

Detailed information about her publications, upcoming lectures, and courses can be found on her website:
http://www.uheise.net

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Register for the 2014 SNS Conference

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1.   Complete the online registration form HERE.

2.    Make University Guest House reservation HERE  and use the following Group ID and Password:

          Group ID: 2782

          Group Password: 37000444

3.      Hotel reservation instructions will also be included in each participant’s event registration confirmation email.

4.      Hotel reservations may also be made by calling 1-888-416-4075 and mentioning the event name. 

5.      All reservations should be made by March 3, 2014.

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Ngugi wa Thiong'o to Speak at the 2014 SNS Conference

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We are happy to announce that Ngugi wa Thiong'o is a plenary speaker at the 2014 SNS conference titled Land and the Novel. 

Ngugi wa Thiong'o is Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine. Born in Kenya in 1938 into a large peasant family, he is recipient of seven Honorary Doctorates and is also Honorary Member of the American Academy of Letters. He lived through the Mau Mau War of Independence (1952-1962), and burst onto the literary scene in East Africa with the performance of his first major play, The Black Hermit, in 1962, as part of the celebration of Uganda’s Independence.

With Taban Lo Liyong and Awuor Anyumba, Ngugi authored the polemical declaration, “On the Abolition of the English Department,” setting in motion a global debate. This text was followed by other volumes including: Writers in Politics (1981 and 1997); Decolonising the Mind (1986); Moving the Center (1994); and Penpoints Gunpoints and Dreams (1998). Ngugi was imprisoned without charge at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison at the end 1977. It was at Kamiti Prison that Ngugi made the decision to abandon English as his primary language of creative writing; he committed himself to writing in Gikuyu, his mother tongue.

In prison, and following that decision, he wrote, on toilet paper, the novel Caitani Mutharabaini (1981), translated into English as Devil on the Cross (1982). After Amnesty International named him a Prisoner of Conscience, an international campaign secured his release in December 1978. He remained in exile for the duration of the Moi Dictatorship 1982-2002.

When he and his wife, Njeeri, returned to Kenya in 2004 after twenty-two years in exile, they were attacked by hired gunmen and narrowly escaped. Ngugi’s books have been translated into more than thirty languages and they continue to be the subject of books, critical monographs, and dissertations.


For the conference call for paper and information about registration, click HERE

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SCHEDULE---2013 NOVEL Fall Conference: The Novel and the Anthropocene

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Friday, October 18th 2013

Duke University, FHI Garage, 1st Floor, Smith Warehouse, Durham, NC 27708

10:00 – 5:30

“The Anthropocene” is a recently coined, as-of-yet informal geologic period intended to mark the moment when human activities began to have significant global impacts on earth’s ecosystems. This forum proposes to gather three speakers across a range of fields to think about how novelistic form, from the 18th century to the 21st, has enabled a variety of narratives about the relation between the human and the environment in an attempt to contextualize this emerging discourse.

How has our way of thinking about the human-environment relationship changed—what did it mean to think geologically in the moment of Lyell’s Principles of Geology [1830-33]? What does it mean to think geologically in the moment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [1988-present]? The term’s popularizers, Nobel Prize winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen and ecologist Eugene Stoemer, date the beginning of the Anthropocene to the geologically very-recent invention of the steam engine in 1784; “the novel” has also been retroactively deemed a geologically recent event, seen as “rising” out of the 18th century. What is it about our narratives of the ‘rise’ of the novel as a literary form the ‘rise’ of the human as a geological force that finds our accounts of these two rises perhaps not-so-coincidentally intertwined? If recent discourse on the Anthropocene sometimes seems to push us to think the human as a species entangled in an ecology (or does it?)—no longer the individual, no longer separated into an assortment of Nation-States—how does that revise the form of the Bildungsroman, traditionally considered as the form of the modern liberal individual assimilated into national culture? How has the novel contributed to the narrative genres and forms that we use to tell the story of the Anthropocene, and how—in turn—does the story of the Anthropocene ask us to reconsider what these narrative genres and forms can (or even should) do? How might we approach the Anthropocene in literary study as a concept both offering new possibilities and as a product of contemporary discourse that merits criticism and scrutiny?


Speakers

Matthew Taylor (UNC, Chapel Hill)

Tobias Boes (Notre Dame)

Noah Heringman (University of Missouri)


Sponsored by NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, Duke English Department


Schedule

********

10:00-12:00 Introduction and First session

Introduction (15 mins)

First speaker: Matthew Taylor (UNC, Chapel Hill) (20-25 mins)

            Paper Title, TBD

1st Graduate Student Respondent, Israel Durham (7 mins)

2nd Graduate Student Respondent, Fran McDonald (7 mins)

Discussion (~60 mins discussion)


12:00-1:30 Break

(Sandwiches and drinks)


1:30-3:15 Second Session

Second speaker: Tobias Boes (Notre Dame) (20-25 mins)

            Paper Title, TBD

1st Graduate Student Respondent, Adam Lambert (7 mins)

2nd Graduate Student Respondent, Rebecca Evans (7 mins)

Discussion (~60 mins)


3:30-5:30 Third session

Third speaker: Noah Heringman (University of Missouri) (20-25 mins)

            Paper Title, TBD

1st Graduate Student Respondent, Thomas Manganaro (7 mins)

2nd Graduate Student Respondent, Patrick Morgan (7 mins)

Discussion (~60 mins)

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Call For Papers: Society for Novel Studies Conference at the University of Utah April 4-6, 2014

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Call For Papers

Society for Novel Studies Conference at the University of Utah

April 4-6, 2014

Organizers: Vincent Pecora, Scott Black, Jeremy Rosen

Land and the Novel

The history of the novel is in some ways a history of how populations left the land, and their political-theological connection to it, behind—or at least tried to. The novel never really left its chthonic roots behind, however. Like the ancient Greek tragedies, novels from Defoe and Scott on continually recalled those putatively archaic ties to land—both the soil itself and sovereign territory—even as they became the surest signs of an urban and urbane modernity. Instead, it is the critical tradition that seems to have overlooked these traces in the dust, with the consequence that the novel has become increasingly portrayed as the purely secular instrument of efficient nation-state governmentality. The fact that governmentality and the chthonic consciousness actually came to reinforce one another in a Nazi sympathizer such as Knut Hamsun no longer gets any attention at all. This conference is designed to promote a re-thinking of the novel in its relation to the land (again, both as soil and territory). It aims at something like a reconstruction of the entire nexus of land and the novel from the ground up, including broader considerations of political theology and conflict, the cosmopolitan and indigenous. The panel topics are intentionally diverse, ranging from specific historical-geographical moments (that is, using a somewhat different figuration of Bakhtin’s chronotope) to broader considerations of the lands in and of the novel.

Panel Topics

1.     Land, Territory, Nation, Empire

2.     Genres of Land: Saga, Pastoral, Georgic and the Novel

3.     Land, Law, and Property

4.     Working the Land

5.     Blood and Soil/Race and Land/Autochthony and Strangers

6.     Country and City, Redux

7.     Manifest Destinies

8.     Promised Lands, Sacred Lands, and Political Theology

9.     Homelands, Real and Imaginary

10. Here Be Dragons: Off the Map (and Off the Planet)

11. Land versus Place

12. Ecological Disaster and Post-Apocalyptic Territory

13. Macondo and Other “Lands”

14. Transnational Novels

15. The Novel Beyond the Nation

16. Territory and the Extra-territorial

17. Geology, Geological Time, and the Novel

18. FantasyLand, Virtuality, and Speculative Geography

19. Borderlands and Disputed Lands

20. Marco? Polo! Travel, Wandering, Peripeteia and the Novel

21. Sexing the Land

22. Gaia

23. The New Indigeneity in the Americas

24. Deep Ecology

Proposals for papers to be delivered at the conference should include the following information:

1.     Panel for which proposal is designed.

2.     Brief description of no more than 250 words.

3.     Final papers should be no longer than 2500 words.

Proposals should be sent to:

no later than January 15, 2014.  You will be notified as to whether or not your paper is accepted by January 30, 2014.

Register for the conference HERE

For information on how to join the SNS, click HERE.

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Panel Topics for the 2014 SNS Conference

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Panel Topics for SNS Conference, April 4-6, 2014, University of Utah

Conference Title: Land and the Novel


1.     Land, Territory, Nation, Empire

2.     Genres of Land: Saga, Pastoral, Georgic and the Novel

3.     Land, Law, and Property

4.     Working the Land

5.     Blood and Soil/Race and Land/Autochthony and Strangers

6.     Country and City, Redux

7.     Manifest Destinies

8.     Promised Lands, Sacred Lands, and Political Theology

9.     Homelands, Real and Imaginary

10. Here Be Dragons: Off the Map (and Off the Planet)

11. Land versus Place

12. Ecological Disaster and Post-Apocalyptic Territory

13. Macondo and Other “Lands”

14. Transnational Novels

15. The Novel Beyond the Nation

16. Territory and the Extra-territorial

17. Geology, Geological Time, and the Novel

18. FantasyLand, Virtuality, and Speculative Geography

19. Borderlands and Disputed Lands

20. Marco? Polo! Travel, Wandering, Peripeteia and the Novel

21. Sexing the Land

22. Gaia

23. The New Indigeneity in the Americas

24. Deep Ecology

Check our website for call for papers, which is to appear very soon!

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Upcoming Events

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1. 2014 SNS CONFERENCE

It's almost two years since the highly successful 2012 Novel Worlds Conference took place at Duke University. (See photos from the conference HERE).

The second annual conference, "Land and the Novel," is now in the planning stages. It is scheduled to take place in Salt Lake City, 4-6 April, 2014 and is sponsored by the Society for Novel Studies (SNS). 

PLEASE SAVE THESE DATES.  We will post announcements of this event on this website as soon as we receive more information from the planning committee. And stay tuned for the call for papers, which will follow soon after.

The journal's editorial board is certain that this conference will continue the tradition of high intellectual quality and provocative discussion established by the 2007 and 2012 conference.

2. ONE-DAY SYMPOSIUM AT DUKE UNIVERSITY

On October 18, 2013, Novel: A Forum on Fiction will sponsor a one-day conference dedicated to "The Novel and the Anthropocene."  Planned by Duke graduate students, this conference features three scholars whose current research focuses on difference aspects and historical periods of this relationship. More details to follow.

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Photos From The 2012 Novel Worlds Conference

From April 27-28 last year, Duke University was abuzz with one of the biggest literary conferences that ever took place on its grounds. International and local literary scholars gathered at the lovely Washingtong Duke Inn to think and talk about the novel's "capacity to fabricate specific models of the world."  

The highlights of the 27th were talks given by two keynote speakers. Columbia University's Rebecca Walkowitz gave a lecture on translation and cosmopolitan style. Later that day, Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh (Ibis Trilogy) shared his sense of what history as a narrative form brings to the novel.

The following day, French philosopher Jacques Ranciere gave an illuminating talk on various ways of linking truth to fiction. 

Check out the photos. 

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NOVEL INTERVIEW | Ghosh -- "History is at the Heart of the Novel."

Amitav Ghosh was at Duke University for the 2012 Novel Worlds Conference as a keynote speaker. The morning after his lecture, Azeen Khan, a graduate student of English here at Duke, had a chance to chat with him about everything from the opium war and the history of free trade to the relationship between the novel, history, and anthropology.

It's a fun and illuminating read. Enjoy!

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This conversation took place on April 28, 2012 at the Washington Duke Inn. Amitav Ghosh was invited to speak at the “Novel Worlds” Conference hosted by the journal Novel: A Forum on Fiction at Duke University.                                                            

AK: I wanted to begin by asking you a bit about your training as an anthropologist and how you see the relation between literature and anthropology, specifically the form of the novel and that of ethnography. Do you find similarities between the two?

Ghosh: There are obvious similarities in the sense that, like many novels, ethnography is about a place. But I   don’t really know what anthropologists do today. I am told that it’s different from when I did anthropology, about thirty years ago. Back then the ethnographies that we read weren’t about people so much, even when they were rich descriptions of a place. I knew what I wanted to do was something different. I am not interested in abstractions. It’s not how I think. I have always been interested in details, in people, in circumstances.

AK: So, in a sense, what you’re saying is that anthropology has – or claims to have – a specific relation to epistemology. Does the novel form allow you to get at knowledge in a way that anthropology doesn’t. Can you reflect on that in relation to your own writing?

Ghosh: That’s a complicated one. I recently read a book that made a great impression on me: The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who is from Lebanon.[1] He’s a Mathematician and a businessman and has made fabulous sums of money on Wall Street, especially from the crash. Taleb lays out a kind of mathematics that destabilizes the notion of the probable. It shows you that the idea of probability really applies in only limited circumstances; the most significant events and circumstances are often highly improbable. This resonated with me because as a writer, when you decide to write about a character’s life, you don’t talk about how people get up and brush their teeth in the morning - not unless it has some bearing on your story. You write about moments of significance. All writing becomes about these concentrated moments in time. This is, in a sense, the inverse of what the ethnographer does.

AK:  The Glass Place, The Sea of Poppies, The River of Smoke belong to the genre of the historical novel, but you have also insisted – at least in terms of The Glass Palace – that it could be read as a family memoir, such that there is an elision between biography, autobiography, and history. How do you conceive of the historical novel’s appearance in postcolonial writing and what kind of difference do you think it marks from its European antecedents?

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Ghosh: There is a sense in which all novels are historical novels because every novel is an account of something that has already happened, unless it is science fiction. So history is absolutely at the heart of the novel. War and Peace is a historical novel and since the events of Moby Dick took place some seventy to eighty years before, that too fits into the genre. In that sense, many of the novelists I admire wrote historical novels. I have always been very fascinated by history - even when I was a kid. The Bengali writer who I liked most as a child was Sharadindu BandopadhyayaHe was a wonderful historical novelist. He lived in Poona and wrote these stories about a boy called Sadashiv. He was a soldier in Shivaji’s army and had many adventures. They were very interesting stories and I really enjoyed reading them.

I also loved reading Sir Walter Scott when I was in my early teens. In school, I'd spend hours immersed in Sir Walter Scott. When I went back to my school many years later, I found that no one had checked those books out of the library since that time.

AK: How do you think your novels – but also those of other postcolonial writers such as Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Salman Rushdie, etc. – respond to the tradition of the historical novel?

Ghosh: I think the great thing about the novel, and not just the historical novel, is that it is an extremely generous form. It allows you luxuries and liberties like no other form. In writing my last book, River of Smoke, the novel that inspired me most was Zayni Barakat by Gamal Al-Ghitani. It’s about eighteenth century Cairo, and what is interesting about it is the use of edicts and proclamations, the official voice of history as it were. I found Gamal Al-Ghitani's use of this very compelling and when I was working on River of Smoke it was one of the things that was playing in my head.

As a writer, I am a kind of magpie. I have had the singular good fortune to be exposed to many different traditions. I've also been interested in many different traditions. It is because of this that it is very hard for me to say which tradition I am addressing. I just don’t think like that. I don’t think when you’re sitting down to write a book that you can really think about ‘traditions’. You really cannot - because the challenge that faces you when you’re sitting at your desk with a blank sheet of paper is how to give it life, in the present. At that moment, when you’re sitting there you’re not thinking about books or anything. Writing itself is so difficult and such a challenge that you just can’t think about all these things.

AK: You’ve spoken a bit about your own reading of historical novels. I’d be very curious to know if there has been a particular philosopher of history, or a particular tradition of conceiving history, which shaped your thinking in a substantial way?

Ghosh: I am trying to think. No, I can’t say that there is a philosopher of history as such. But I think one of the principal differences that I see between myself and a lot of Anglo-American historical writers is that I don’t believe that history is moving towards something – some sort of good point. I don’t believe it has a teleology or that it has a redemptive message.

I think, again, that one of the great things about the novel is that it allows us to address different kinds of things. It allows us to address the environment, the natural world, and people’s position within the natural world. And I do think that this is something that a historian can’t do. Or rather it's much more difficult for them because of the nature of what they do. They have to have an evidentiary trail. They have to have a whole apparatus of references and so there has to be some kind of boundary to what they’re writing about. This is the strength of what they do but it is also a constraint. The strength of what I do is that I can integrate many different aspects of the world into a narrative - but the weakness of it is that I can’t support what I say with references. There is no evidentiary trail. I can't make truth claims whereas a historian can. But they are complementary exercises and both are necessary.

AK: This raises the larger question about what kind of a claim literature makes to knowledge, to truth. What do you think? The thing about literature that is so wonderful is that there is an incalculability that one cannot account for in any way, a lapse of what you earlier called the evidentiary trail.

Ghosh: Interesting. Novels create narratives and in this sense – and perhaps this is too large a claim? – they actually make history, or rather the telling of history, possible. For example, right next to Calcutta there is an amazing mangrove forest - the Sundarbans. I had some family connections with it and it always amazed me that people in Calcutta didn’t know much about the Sundarbans, had no interest in it. It was a vast blankness, a sort of darkness. When people in Calcutta speak of forests, they usually mean Northern forests, with tall trees etc. And yet, right on their doorstep is this astonishing wilderness... I think one of the reasons for this refusal to perceive is that in the popular imagination the Sundarbans was a wilderness that had no narrative. It had no imaginative existence.

When I was writing The Hungry Tide, I would often think to myself: will the act of writing this novel make this forest real? Will it give it an imaginative life? I do think to some degree it has done that. If you compare what was written about the Sundarbans before and after The Hungry Tide, you'll see a difference. I think it is just this: a narrative makes it possible for people to perceive and think about places, and moments in time, that were previously unseen or invisible.

AK: Would you say, then, that that is the novel’s singular contribution to history-making?

Ghosh: Novels have many contributions. I wouldn’t say this is its singular contribution by any means. But it is one thing that novels can do. They can open windows of perception. Take Sea of Poppies, for example. It brought the Opium trade to life for many people – before that the subject had more or less vanished from public memory. It’s extraordinary that opium, which has played such an important part in Asian history, had vanished from public memory in India.

AK: What first brought you to the opium trade?

Ghosh: A complicated set of connections, beginning with the history of indentured migration, which I touched upon briefly in The Glass Palace. But The Glass Palace was about a lot of other things as well and there I didn’t have the opportunity to follow up on the indentured story. But it always remained in my mind and that was how Sea of Poppies began. I asked myself: what was the background of the migrants, why were they leaving, and what was their material reality? It was literally in that process that I came upon this whole opium trade. There is a vast amount of material on it and I immersed myself in it.

The publication of The Glass Palace was another extraordinary experience for me. For years afterwards I'd get letters from people - two sorts of letters. Some would say, 'we went to Ratnagiri to see the palace (where King Thibaw, Burma's last ruler was exiled)'. There were many letters like that. Then four to five years ago, I got a letter from a woman (Sudha Shah) who said that she had read my book and it had inspired her to start a book of her own. She'd studied at Smith College. Then just the other day she sent me the proofs of her book. (I've reviewed it on my website). It’s a wonderful book on King Thibaw and his family and their life in exile in Ratnagiri. It really meant a lot to me that The Glass Palace had inspired a book like this one.

I also get letters from people who went on the march from Burma to India (in 1941-2). Sometimes they send me their own recollections of the march; many of them tell me that The Glass Palace had reminded them of an experience that they had forgotten or blanked out.

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AK: Ibis is a slave ship refitted to perform labour specific to the Indian Ocean. Do you find the Indian Ocean and the thematic terrain it opens up similar to the constellation opened up by, in Paul Gilroy’s formulation, the Black Atlantic? In your talk yesterday, you said, rather provocatively, that with opium and the opium trade, we have the birth of the commodity – and of capitalism, as we know it. But scholars have long argued that the slave trade – and its close relation to insurance – might be one genealogy of modernity. How would you put these two archives together?

Ghosh: There are two things I would like to say in relation to that. One is that India was to the nineteenth century what Africa was to the eighteenth - in the sense that it was a huge pool of essentially captive labour. India became Africa's replacement in that regard. I don’t know why we don’t make that connection because the substitution was quite direct. Everywhere that Indian migrants went in the nineteenth century, they went after the banning of slavery. So they were clearly substitutes and that created problems within communities, which last to this day.

Where the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean trade met was London. London was the node through which all this was curling outward. This is true also of opium. The opium trade came into existence because of tea. Look at the way in which the British made their tea: it had to be drunk with sugar, and the sugar was being grown in plantations, first with slave and then migrant labour. This resulted in an economy that tied the whole world in a web. One set of ships would bring opium from India to China; another set would take tea from China to England; another set would bring sugar from the West Indies to London. These cycles of trade in turn became the mechanisms for the repatriation of finances. To get bonds, to be able to trade in the opium in Canton, one had to have bonds issued by the East India Company. And it wouldn’t give everyone bonds.

You have to remember that much of this was in the name of Free Trade. The British government, backed by merchants and traders, made war on China in the name of free trade. Yet they were trading in a substance - opium - that was produced as a monopoly of the East India Company. There's so much talk about free markets and trade - yet the markets weren’t free at all in the sense that Asian merchants couldn't compete with British merchants on equal terms.

AK: Why is that?

Ghosh: Merchants in Asia have a very long tradition. They were extremely competitive, extremely canny. They knew the local circumstances. When it was purely a matter of business they were often able to outdo the British traders and merchants.  But the British essentially used their political and military power to maintain their control of trade. Amar Farooqui has written about this in his book Smuggling as Subversion: Colonialism, Indian Merchants, and the Politics of Opium, 1790-1843.


AK: How might a Canton be different from a Genoa or a Venice? Could you explain what it is about Canton that makes it different from the other hubs of commerce and trade?

Ghosh: It’s very simple. Venice and Genoa didn’t have any Chinese, and very few Indians or Asians, if any – and they represent more than half of mankind. When we talk of Venice or Genoa as an entrepôt we really mean a European or a Mediterranean entrepôt. The idea that the whole world is present in Venice or in Constantinople is simply not true. What makes Canton so unique is that it is actually one place where you have Europeans, Chinese, Indians, Javanese, Thais, everyone.

AK: What do you think it is about this historical moment that had led you to the opium war – to the history of the free trade? After your talk yesterday, you were asked if you think history repeats itself, or if it works in any kind of a cyclical model. If that is the case, how would you situate your work in relation to the historical present?

Ghosh: As we say in India, hadh ho gaye, that’s basically the feeling from which much of my writing about the opium wars comes. I felt very strongly about the Iraq War, which was actually prefigured by the Opium war in many ways. There was the same kind of talk about Free Trade and so on. Before the opium war, as before the Iraq war, the British were saying stuff like: 'they'll welcome us with open arms to Canton – and so on.'

AK: In Sea of Poppies, your focus is on the opium trade. I wanted to ask you a more general question about the objects and things that populate your work and your interest in material culture…

Ghosh: If you had asked me this fifteen years ago, I wouldn’t have had an answer. But recently, I’ve realized that my interest in things is very empirical. I’m just a very empirically-minded person. Things interest me. The world interests me. In that sense, I am in some ways very different from many other writers of my generation.

AK: How do you see the relation between you and the other contemporary writers – to J. M. Coetzee, for example?

Ghosh: Coetzee’s work is intensely cerebral; very spare (I should add that I admire his work very much). With Coetzee one always feels that he is exploring an idea. That's not how I work. The idea never comes first. For me, it’s always the people, the character – and if the characters don’t come alive then it becomes impossible for me to carry on.

AK: In your work, you have always paid attention to photographs, letters, historical documents, dictionaries, etc. – and your novels tend to internalize these various technologies. Can you speak a bit about this?

Ghosh: The novel is wonderfully generous, as I've said – it’s a wonderfully capacious form. But, you know, I have always been interested in images too. I love taking photographs - although I'm by no means a good photographer. My daughter and son often get annoyed with me for taking so many pictures but I just like clicking away. I’m moved by photographs – for example, the whole character of Zachary in Sea of Poppies emerged out of a photograph that I saw in a book about sail ships. There was a picture of a crew member that caught my attention and the character grew out of that. It very often happens like that.

AK: And letters…

Ghosh: I used to love writing letters. I think it’s so sad that the letter as a form is disappearing. I love writing letters and you know when I was in my twenties I used to write long letters, pages and pages, to my friends.

AK: Do you think the sensibility of the letter has survived in a different form?

Ghosh: No, I don’t think so. I think the immediacy of email and twitter have really wiped away the kind of considered writing that letters demanded. Now even emails from other writers seem so cursory. I don’t write letters anymore. Hardly ever.

 
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AK: We’ll have to wrap up soon so I’ll just ask a final question. You have said in the past that you think it is the “duty” of your generation of writers to address the issue of the environment, which you categorized as the fundamental question of our time. Does that still hold for you?

Ghosh: I do think it’s very important to engage with the environment. Every day it becomes even more critical. But I think it’s very important that when we engage with the environment, we do it not as an abstraction but out of a love for things and creatures, for the world around us. That is one of the reasons why I wrote The Hungry Tide.

I was travelling in the Sundarbans and I saw a dolphin that had a terrible wound. It had been washed up on the side. It had obviously been hit by a propeller. It was a ghastly thing to see. It was a river dolphin and I became very interested in its movements and so I wrote to several dolphin specialists. The only one who responded was Helene Marsh, an Australian scientist and a wonderful woman. She told me that she had a student from New Zealand, Isabel Beasley, who was in Cambodia, working on Irrawaddy dolphins; she suggested that I write to her. So I wrote to Isabel and then I went to Cambodia and followed her around as she was doing her research. I came to admire her very much.

AK: Final question. Do you have a sense today of where you’re going next in your writing?

Ghosh: No. People often ask me that. I scarcely know where I am going on the next page. I wish I were one of those writers who can sit down and can see a whole book opening up in their minds. Virginia Woolf sat down on a park bench and the whole of To the Lighthouse was revealed to her. And after that she just went and wrote it down. I never know.

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