Jonathan Franzen. International Symposium [UPDATE] Córdoba, Spain, April 2013

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Department of English and German Studies, University of Córdoba
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Jonathan Franzen: Identity and Crisis of the American Novel

International Symposium
University of Córdoba, Spain, 18-19 April 2013

The uneven and at times misleading critical reception of Jonathan Franzen's novels throws into relief two old concerns: the interaction between the public and the private, and the unlikely fate of the Great American Novel. Is a refurbished social realism the new direction of American prose fiction? How far into political commitment should this realism go? Is the post-modern experimentalism of the 1960s and 1970s definitely over? To what extent is academic criticism, currently fuelled by diverse sociological, political and thematic agendas (identity politics, gender studies, trauma studies, ethical turn), likely to respond to Franzen's allegedly white, male, Midwestern and shyly progressive worldview? More importantly, how many traditions of American fiction are now allowed to coexist? How should we read both Franzen's genealogical claims and his critical conception of the role the novel should play in contemporary society, swaying between (aesthetic) innovation and (public) intervention?

The organisers will welcome proposals for 25-minute papersin English on any of the areas mentioned above. Suggested (merely indicative) topics include:

1. The distinctive merits of Franzen's novels: stylistic innovation, formal construction, ethico-cognitive innovation, socio-political insight.
2. From postmodernism to realism. Gaps and continuities between on the one hand, The Twenty Seventh City (1988) and Strong Motion (1992), and on the other hand, The Corrections (2001) and Freedom (2010).
3. Thematic recurrences: flawed communities; conspiracy; environmentalism.
4. The autobiographical dimension, with special attention to The Discomfort Zone.
5. The way his novels confirm or disavow the terms of the debate over the necessity of a new realism in contemporary fiction.
6. The reception of Jonathan Franzen: reviews, interviews, articles.
7. The relation between Franzen's novels and his non-fictional work.
8. The genuine political reach of Franzen's novels, where environmentalism is deployed at the expense of other more pressing concerns.
9. The relation between Franzen and the Gaddis-Pynchon-Coover generation of American masters.
10. DeLillo-Franzen and the anxieties of influence.
11. Generational issues. Franzen and his contemporaries (David Foster Wallace, Michael Chabon, Jeffrey Eugenides, Dave Eggers…).
12. Jonathan Franzen's position vis-à-vis the "Great American Novel".
13. Red herrings?: a) Franzen, Tolstoy and European realism b) The German connection: Rilke, Kafka, Mann, and Continental Modernism
14. The relation between Franzen's novels and non-US-centred narrative modes like post-colonial fiction, regional fiction, international novel, fiction of globalization…

Please submit your 500 word proposals by February 15th, 2013 to Paula Martín ( Abstracts should include your name, institution, e-mail address, and the title of your proposed paper.

Paula Martín Salván
Julián Jiménez Heffernan
Jesús Blanco Hidalga
María J. López