On the Period Formerly Known as the Program Era (NeMLA 2018)
In The Program Era and “On The Period Formerly Known as Contemporary,” Mark McGurl and Amy Hungerford have offered compelling narratives for periodizing and framing the post-45 literary field. But despite Hungerford’s acknowledgment that global watershed events are difficult to perceive, it it simultaneously difficult not to think that, in the past two years, “everything has changed.” In fact, as cataloged by the Post45 group, over ¾ of the proposals for the recent Princeton conference “The Contemporary” involved “post-” as a concept. If these shifts are real, then an important new question emerges: In what ways has the post-2016 moment changed, revised, or even departed from these previously guiding understandings of post-45?
This panel invites presentations that take up this question in order to articulate new ways of framing and narrating literary history after 1945. How does the field imagine itself, its borders, its methods, and its content? What texts, authors, spaces, and epistemologies are excluded from such imaginings? In what ways can the field transcend nationality, and in what ways is it still bound by political and imaginative borders? The panel is particularly interested in ways that new understandings of post-45 will both converge with and diverge from the urgent work being done in other “post” fields: post-reading (Moretti), post-national (World Literature), post-critique, post-colonial studies, post-truth, post-theory, post-human, and so on. While theoretical or state of the field type presentations are welcome, the panel will privilege work that makes its arguments about post-45 through close attention to literary or cultural texts. In wrestling with these diverse questions, we will attempt to develop a more robust sense of the present in order to make sense of the past and future.