CFP: "Naturalism and Crisis" (Nov 15, 2011; ACLA; March 29 - April 1, 2012, Brown U)

full name / name of organization: 
Geoff Baker / American Comparative Literature Association
contact email: 

In the 2010 Oscar-winning Best Documentary Feature film The Cove, the film's director Louie Psihoyos describes on-screen the film's approach and activist goals in documenting the slaughter of dolphins in Japan's Taiji: "There was two parts to the mission. The first one was to get the auditory experience. . . . The second mission, what we call the full orchestra," involved installing numerous cameras and microphones underwater and around the cove in which the slaughter took place. "I wanted to have a three-dimensional experience," Psihoyos then explains in voice-over, "with what's going on in that lagoon. I wanted to hear everything that the dolphins were doing, everything that the whalers were saying. The effort wasn't just to show the slaughter. You want to capture something that will make people change." In many ways, the approach described here is similar to that laid out by proponents of literary Naturalism. In The Experimental Novel, for example, Émile Zola emphasizes the manner in which a literary text's amassing of details can achieve a sort of crisis point, resulting in changes in policy, lifestyle, etc. And if these texts, politically charged as they frequently are, are responses to crises perceived, they also often rely on moments of crisis in order to get their point across or have their specific impact on readers.

This panel seeks papers that address aspects of crisis in literary Naturalism or in texts deploying strategies that are part of the legacy of Naturalism. Topics could include the political or social crises which Naturalism addresses; the role of crisis in Naturalist texts (the sabotage in Germinal, the fire in New Grub Street, the scandalous endings of Before Sunrise or A Doll House); and even the stylistic crises of texts torn between objective description and literary stylization. Papers, when presented, will be 15 to 20 minutes in length.

For questions, contact Geoff Baker at gabaker at To submit a proposal, please visit and follow instructions for submission to this panel, "Naturalism and Crisis."