History, Race, Aesthetics, Nation: Taxonomizing American Literature [ALA 2014 - May 22-25 - Washington D.C.]
Recent work by Ted Underwood, Franco Moretti, Amanda Anderson, and W. Lawrence Hogue, among others, has challenged traditional taxonomies of literature by exploring them as historical phenomena, as in Underwood's Why Literary Periods Mattered and Anderson's The Way We Argue Now, by challenging the centering dynamics of normative discourses, as in Hogue's Postmodern American Literature and Its Other, and by offering new frameworks, as in Moretti's Graphs Maps Trees. This panel is designed to interrogate the implications of existing organizing principles such as history, race, aesthetics, and nation, and to consider alternative approaches to understanding American literature from a macro perspective. How have traditional taxonomies helped us make sense of American literature? How have such classifications perhaps foreclosed interpretive possibilities? Is studying/teaching literature without periodization possible? What will alternative taxonomies mean for the study of "American literature"? The goal of this panel is to extend critical discussion on this topic with an eye toward exposing blind spots and developing new taxonomies for the study of literature we have typically labeled American.