Essay Collection: The Contemporary Novel and the Poetics of Genre
An interest in the concept and the importance of genre has resurfaced in recent years. Indeed, "[t]here has of late been no shortage of serious writers swerving with fanfare into the lowly precincts of genre fiction" (McGurl 2010, n.p.). As a contribution to the debate on the valence of genre in the contemporary novel, I am looking for essay submissions to a volume on the poetics of genre in the contemporary novel that proposes to investigate the nature of this potential "generic turn" in contemporary fiction.
The proposed collection seeks to offer a general appreciation of the possibilities and manifestations of genre poetics today. It recognizes the importance of "popular" genres for the contemporary novel, genres that have connotations of the "non-literary" (cf. Roberts 1991). Yet it will also ask what transformations to classical genres such as the bildungsroman can be seen today. The call thus invites essays that investigate the relationship between the contemporary novel and both frequently derided "popular" genres such as crime fiction, horror, fantasy, and science-fiction, but also on re-writings and re-conceptualizations of novelistic genres that are more conventionally considered literary such as the novel of initiation and the bildungsroman in recent English-language fiction.
The proposed collection will investigate why this renewed interest in working with and through genre is taking place, what forms of expression it takes, and how recent developments have shifted the way we talk and think about genre and genres. It aims to situate the turn to genre and the shifts in genres in the context of other cultural and historical conceptualizations, such as the "end of postmodernism," the rise of "post-postmodernism," and the ideas of "postirony" and the "new sincerity." The interest can also be contrasted with the neorealist novel.
Topics and questions addressed may include, but are by no means restricted to:
• What is the relationship between the "turn" to genre and the nature of the postmodern adoption of genre fictions? Is the current use of genre an extension of postmodern poetics, or something constitutively different?
• Are there constitutive differences between national literatures in the uses of genre?
• Is there a politics to the use of genre fictions? Do these fictions repoliticize the novel?
• Must we read the poetics of genre as a particularly concern of ethnic writers, either emancipatorily (cf. Saldívar 2011) or as a form of "self-willed exile" (Lethem 2011, 113)?
• What is the role of gender in this new poetics of genre? Is genre "gendered"?
• What is the (formal?) relationship between the "literary" novel and the "genre" novel today, especially with regard to such texts as Colson Whitehead's Zombie novel Zone One, or Joyce Carol Oates's vampire/alt-history novel The Accursed?
• Genre in the writings of authors such as Kate Atkinson, Michael Chabon, Junot Díaz, Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Lethem, China Miéville, Lydia Millet, Joyce Carol Oates, Matt Ruff, Colson Whitehead, and others.
The volume will be published by an international publisher. I invite proposals between 300-400 words at firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for paper proposals is August 1st, 2014; if accepted, the deadline for completed articles will be January 1st, 2015.
Lethem, Jonathan, and James Schiff (2011). "A Conversation with Jonathan Lethem." In: Clarke, Jaime, ed. Conversations with Jonathan Lethem. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.
McGurl, Mark (2010). "The Zombie Renaissance." N+1 9, Spring 2010. Web.
Roberts, Thomas J. (1990). An Aesthetics of Junk Fiction. Athens and London: University of Georgia Press.
Saldívar, Ramon (2013). "Historical Fantasy, Speculative Realism, and Postrace Aesthetics in Contemporary American Fiction." American Literary History 23 (3).
Tim Lanzendörfer is assistant professor at the University of Mainz, Germany. He is the author of The Professionalization of the American Magazine: Periodicals, Biography, and Nationalism in the Early American Republic as well as essays on American cultural history, comics, and contemporary fiction. His article "The Marvelous History of the Dominican Republic in Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" has been published in MELUS and "The Politics of Genre Fiction: Colson Whitehead's Zone One" is forthcoming in C21: Journal of Twenty-First Century Literature. His second book project is a study of the use of history in contemporary American novels.