SNS 2016 Call for Papers

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

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.

Please direct questions or inquiries about the conference to Gayle Rogers at


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.

Please submit your proposal for this panel to Susan Andrade at

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?

Please submit your proposal for this panel to Elizabeth Anker at

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?

Please submit your proposal for this panel to Magalí Armillas-Tiseyra at .

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.

Please submit your proposal for this panel to Ben Baer at

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?

Please submit your proposal for this panel to Timothy Bewes at

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.

Please submit your proposal for this panel to Paul Bové at

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.

Please submit your request to join this panel to Amanda Claybaugh at

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?

Please submit your proposal for this panel to César Domínguez at

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.

Please submit your proposal for this panel to Nergis Erturk at .

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.

Please submit your proposal for this panel to Penny Fielding at

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.

Please submit your proposal for this panel to Ronald Judy at

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?

Please submit your proposal for this panel to Maryam Khan at and Aamir Mufti at

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

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.

Please submit your proposal for this panel to Joshua Lund at

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.

Please submit your proposal for this panel to B. Venkat Mani at

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.

Please submit your proposal for this panel to John Marx at and Aarthi Vadde at

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.

Please submit your proposal for this panel to Giuseppina Mecchia at


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?

Please submit your proposal for this panel to Mario Ortiz-Robles at

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.

Please submit your request to join this seminar to John Plotz at

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.

Please submit your proposal for this panel to Bruce Robbins at

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?

Please submit your proposal for this panel to Ellen Rooney at

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?

Please submit your proposal for this panel to Judy Suh at

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?

Please submit your proposal for this panel to Rebecca Walkowitz at

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?

Please submit your proposal for this panel to Jeffrey Williams at

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.

Please submit your proposal for this panel to Yi Zheng at