Fall 2015 NOVEL Symposium at Brown: NOVEL TECHNOLOGIES

Friday, October 16, 2015


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 How are outdated or emerging technologies thought differently when read as emerging alongside, rather than in opposition to, the novel?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

Saturday, Nov.7

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 NovelEighteenth-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!

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