The Contemporary Novel and the Poetics of Genre -- ALA 2014

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Dr. Tim Lanzendörfer, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz
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I am looking for submissions to a panel to be proposed for the 25th annual conference of the American Literature Association, Washington, D.C., May 22-25, 2014.

This panel invites papers that investigate the relationship between the contemporary novel and “the genres.” The poetics of the contemporary novel is deeply invested in genres that have connotations of the “non-literary” (cf. Roberts 1991): science-fiction, horror, fantasy, and alternative history. The writings of authors such as Junot Díaz, Colson Whitehead, Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem, Lydia Millet, and Joyce Carol Oates, for instance, exhibit what I take to be an increasing tendency to seek new forms of literary expression through the adoption of elements of genre fiction after the end of postmodern experiment. Recently, this potentially new poetics has been claimed as a particularly concern of ethnic writers (cf. Saldívar 2013). However, it is necessary to see this exploration of genre fictions as a renewed interest in aesthetic and formal concerns beyond ethnicity or gender. The panel investigates why such a development is taking place. It proposes to situate the turn to genre in the context of other cultural and historical developments, such as the ‘end of postmodernism,’ the rise of post-postmodernism, the ideas of “Postirony” and “New Sincerity,” but also the recent economic crises. It also reads this interest as a reaction to the still dominant neorealist novel and to debates about the role and virtue of identity as a guiding concept for literary interpretation.

Possible paper topics may include, but are not limited to:
• What is the relationship between the “turn” to genre and the nature of the postmodern adoption of genre fictions? Are there constitutive similarities and differences?
• Can we identify a coherent poetics in writings so disparate as Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Gentlemen of the Road, and Telegraph Avenue—and should we? What unites these texts?
• What is the (formal?) relationship between the “literary” novel and the “genre” novel today, especially with regard to such texts as Colson Whitehead’s Zombie novel Zone One, or Joyce Carol Oates’s vampire/alt-history novel The Accursed?
• Is there a politics to the use of genre fictions? Do these fictions repoliticize the novel?
• What is the relationship between identity and genre? Can genres support the formation of identities? Do current fictions which incorporate genre poetics support identity readings?

I invite proposals of 250-300 words at Deadline for paper proposals is January 1st, 2014. I will inform the presenters chosen within the following week.

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