CFP: Visions of Community: The Suburb in Recent Literature and Film (1/5/07; ASA, 10/11/07-10/14/07)

full name / name of organization: 
Kathy Knapp
contact email: 

Visions of Community: The Suburb in Recent Literature and Film

The proposed panel for the American Studies Association's annual meeting,
October 11th through 14th, seeks to examine novels and films that represent
contemporary suburban experience. Although recent literature and films seem
to have done little to alter the suburban myth, which assumes that the
suburbs are populated exclusively by bored, lonely, and atomized white
middle class families, the suburbs themselves bear little resemblance to the
borderlands of the 1920s and 30s or the bedroom communities of the1950s and
60s. The distinctions between the city and the suburb have become
increasingly blurred: many industries have relocated to the suburbs, making
them increasingly accessible to the nation's poor. No longer the exclusive
domain of the white middle class, the suburbs are increasingly reflecting
the economic, racial and ethnic mix of the nation. Perhaps in response to
these rapid changes, there is a sense of urgency to recent novels and films
one does not find in earlier suburban stories. Disaster looms large in these
later works (from the threat of child molester in Tom Perrotta's *Little
Children*, to a large scale 'airborne toxic event' in Don Delillo's *White
Noise*, a school shooting in Homes' *Music For Torching*, and a wild fire
and mudslide in T. C. Boyle's *Tortilla Curtain* ), exposing the falseness
of the perception of the suburb as a safe, if bland, haven. The characters
in these works struggle with how to live in constant fear. In a New York *
Times* editorial immediately after the September 11th attacks, Richard Ford
urged his fellow suburbanites "to think large and small at once about whom
we're connected to and separate from and about what we mean by community."
This panel seeks to revisit the suburb in the context of these new stakes.

          Submit 1-page abstracts and c.v's by January 5 to Kathy Knapp (
Fordham University), panel organizer, at

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Received on Sat Dec 09 2006 - 18:59:29 EST