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Reading the New Academic Novel (The Louisville Conference 2014, February 20-22)
full name / name of organization:
Ian Butcher, Duquesne University
Reading the New Academic Novel
The Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture Since 1900
In his 2012 article “The Rise of the Academic Novel,” Jeffrey J. Williams identified a shift in the academic novel genre occurring somewhere around the publication of Don DeLillo’s White Noise (1985). Where previous academic novels had tended to concern themselves with settings, characters, and events in academe “legible primarily to those who are familiar with such things or with the conventions of the academic novel,” the new academic novel charts the evolution of academe as it “links seamlessly with contemporary American life and culture” (Williams 565). Coinciding with this shift in focus has been a renaissance of the genre itself, with the publication of academic novels exploding in the 1990s. This renaissance offers particular opportunities for those interested in higher education in the United States. As John R. Thelin and Barbara K. Townsend claim, academic novels are important to the study of higher education in the United States because of their ability to illustrate both “facets of the prevailing national culture and their ultimate diffusion to campus life” and “policies and practices which official accounts have overlooked . . . [especially] institutional practices often overlooked in official reports” (189, 202). This critical panel invites readers and scholars of the academic novel to consider this renaissance of the new academic novel and its relation to the situation of higher education in the United States over the past three decades. In so doing, this panel proposes the following questions: Has there been such a shift in the genre, as Williams claims? If so, what are the implications of this shift? What new and emerging trends has the new academic novel been able to capture as it developed into “an allegory of our era” (Williams 566)? What work does the academic novel do, per Thelin and Townsend’s claims? Is this work still valuable, or does the academic novel as a genre need to be rethought? What makes the genre worthy of further attention and study? Who is the audience for the academic novel and what might they be seeking in their reading of the genre?
Answers to these and other questions about the new academic novel are welcome, particularly in relation to any of the following topics:
Interested participants should send a 250-350 word abstract to Ian Butcher at firstname.lastname@example.org as an attachment (as a .doc/.docx or .pdf), along with your name, email address, and academic affiliation, by September 25th, 2013.