Radical Imagination and Literature

full name / name of organization: 
American Comparative Literature Association, March 29-April 1, 2012
contact email: 

What is the role of literature in creating new ways of being in the world? If many conceptualizations of political freedom terminate in teleologically- determined emancipation, and thus separate the possibility of freedom from the conditions of social life, how can literary form, by contrast, support invention in the face of the unknown?

This seminar draws on theorist Barrymore Anthony Bogues's recent call for investigation of the "radical imagination." Radical imagination is distinct from what Jacqueline Rose and Donald Pease call "fantasy," in which new political formations depend on the repertoire of historical knowledge. Radical imagination abandons the internal or psychological connotations of "imagination," and instead reformulates it as the emergence of collective thought-action that ruptures comprehensible world experience. Importantly, these surges of desire arise in response to pressures whose contours and implications are not yet fully known, and are therefore not reducible to psychologizing notions such as "counter-ideology" or "negative dialectics," which understand revolution primarily in relation to a causal narrative. Radical imagination instead embodies a discontinuous and open-ended engagement with the productive capacities of epiphany and rupture. We therefore find the concept useful for understanding both insurgent histories and recent revolutionary events.

How can we re-conceive of the relationship between condition and possibility without prescribing modes of exercise or demanding guarantees? What are the literary forms and material practices, from manifestoes to everyday reading, that engage the radical imagination? Turning away from representational readings of literature, this seminar seeks to understand the performative role of texts in radical imagining.

Please submit individual paper proposals directly to the ACLA website by November 15, 2011: http://www.acla.org/submit/index.php (select "Radical Imagination and Literature" from the seminar drop-down menu).