Experimental Narrative in Nonfiction (Part II)

deadline for submissions: 
December 10, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
International Society for the Study of Narrative

The proposed panel aims to build on enthusiasm for the “Experimental Narrative in Nonfiction” panel, held at the ISSN conference in 2018. It will continue to explore how and why nonfiction uses “experimental or unnatural devices,” and the differences that obtain when such devices are used in nonfiction as opposed to fiction.

 Unnatural and otherwise strange narrative devices are often used in nonfiction, in apparently contradiction with nonfiction’s imperative of truth-telling. Thought experiments in philosophy and physics routinely deploy impossible situations in order to clarify problems or paradoxes in current theory. Claude Lanzmann’s documentary Shoah eschews chronological telling in order to repudiate notions of historical causality and inevitability; Richard Dawkins’ history of life on earth, The Ancestor’s Tale,uses similar manoeuvers—for very different reasons. Edna O’Brien’s memoir Mother Ireland deploys a dizzying range of tenses while shifting between first, second and third person narration; Jamaica Kincaid’s essay A Small Place addresses a tourist directly, implicating the reader in Antigua’s legacy of colonialism. Bart Layton’s The Imposter uses alienating metalepsis and ambiguous instances of re-enactment in ways that simultaneously complicate and complement the documentary’s thematic focus on authenticity, solubility and objectivity. And so on.

 Papers presented in the 2018 panel focused on autobiography, journalism, political discourse and biology. Ideally, papers in the 2019 panel will add new genres and discursive fields to the conversation; that said, proposals pertaining to any nonfiction genre will be considered. The ideal composition of the panel will be three or four papers focusing on different forms (for example, government reports, history, journalism, medicine, narrative essays, science, thought experiments, travel writing…). I am especially interested in papers that focus on a single narrative device (or a cluster of interrelated devices) and its function, formal and rhetorical effects, and relations to the fiction/nonfiction divide.

 The selected papers will be gathered as a panel proposal for the upcoming conference of the International Society for the Study of Narrative in Pamplona, Spain (May 30 - June 1, 2019). To be considered for the panel, please submit a proposal outlining your paper (250 words) and short biographical note to Daniel Aureliano Newman (University of Toronto, daniel.newman@utoronto.ca) by December 10, 2018.