ACLA: Reading the United States in Contemporary World Literatures, March 20-23, NYU

full name / name of organization: 
American Comparative Literature Association

Eric Cazdyn and Imre Szeman argue in After Globalization (2011) that after 9/11, two costly wars, and a lingering economic recession, the United States is widely perceived to be "a superpower in decline." This seminar, inspired by Cazdyn and Szeman's work on anti-Americanism, considers the possibility that an interrogation of the "now near-universal political and cultural discourse" of American hegemonic power "can allow us to discover unexpected geographies of the current character of global power." While Cazdyn and Szeman question prevalent accounts of the United States as an anxious superpower through analyses of nonfiction and interviews with students from across the globe, this seminar asks whether and how a similar end might be pursued through textual analysis of contemporary world fiction. In so doing, the seminar queries how contemporary fiction might be particularly suited for lending nuance to (or even upending) discourses of U.S. hegemony, as well as how and why it might be limited in its potential for doing so.

The seminar requires papers that examine how contemporary (non-)national fictions belie an understanding of the United States as either a desirable or regrettable, but somehow unquestionable, center of global political, economic, and cultural capital. The organizer also invites papers that reflect on the methodological and ethical pitfalls of pursuing the topic at hand: does focusing on how world fictions represent U.S. power simply reinforce or confirm the imperial hegemony that the seminar seeks to question?

Please submit your 250 word paper proposal here: Abstracts must be received by midnight on Thurs., Nov. 1st to receive full consideration.

Seminar Keywords: United States, world literature, globalization