[UPDATE] Rethinking Realism in American Literature

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South Atlantic Modern Language Association
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Rethinking Realism in American Literature: SAMLA Special Session

The South Atlantic Modern Language Association Conference (SAMLA) will be held November 6-8, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Renaissance Atlanta Hotel Downtown

If for High Modernists realism seemed antiquated for its traditionalist formal techniques, then for High Postmodernists realism appears as inherently and, thus, ideologically flawed. Indeed, J. F. Lyotard argues in “What is Postmodernism?” that what we perceive of as “reality” itself is always already inculcated in an image of reality put forward and enforced by the dominant culture and thus realism functions only inasmuch as it provides “the ‘correct’ images, the ‘correct’ narratives, the ‘correct’ forms which the party [as embodiment of the hegemonic culture] requests, selects, and propagates [. . . ] as the appropriate remedy for the anxiety and depression that [the] public experiences.” For Lyotard, then, to fulfill the “promise” of realism is to always put art to purely “therapeutic uses.” And while examples of this type of realism—or, perhaps, this use of realism—may certainly be found, are there not also to be found examples of realism that violate this definition? Are there not forms of realism (or, more broadly conceived, of verisimilitude) that radically resist Lyotard’s oversimplification?

To expand this discourse, I seek papers that rethink the forms and/or ideologies of American realism. Topics may include, but are in no way limited to:

--new readings or theories of traditionally realist texts
--the “realism” of literary naturalism
--“minor” realisms (in terms of ethnicity or gender)
--modernist uses of realism
--postmodernist uses of realism
--subaltern realisms
--experimental realisms
--violence and realism
--the “return” to realism post 9/11

Please email abstracts of no more than 500 words to Adam H. Wood at ahwood_at_salisbury.edu by May 15.

Adam H. Wood
Assistant Professor
Salisbury University

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