Movement Control and the Modern Novel

full name / name of organization: 
Jesper Gulddal, University of Newcastle, Australia; Charlton Payne, Universität Erfurt

[For a seminar on "Mobilty and Movement Control" at the American Comparative Literature Association Annual Meeting, March 26-29 2015, Seattle, we invite 300-word presentation abstracts by August 22 2014.]


Modernity and modern statehood are inextricably linked to the rise of effective movement control. With the French Revolution and the First World War as the main historical drivers, the gradual introduction of passport regimes brought about a profound reconfiguration of political space: enabling governments to harness administrative resources while also facilitating the rise of the nation-state, these regimes meant that individuals on the move had to deal with unprecedented restrictions on mobility across and often within geopolitical borders. It is no coincidence that the emergence of the modern novel overlaps chronologically with the rise of movement control. The modern politics of movement undoes the nexus of space, mobility, and narrative on which earlier forms of novelistic discourse had typically been based and thereby forces the genre to invent new plot types that align with the new mobility restrictions. Further, if narrative can be defined as the crossing of a semantic border or threshold (as in Jurij Lotman's theory of a narrative event or Peter Brooks's discussion of the demarcating function of plot), it is necessary to consider to what extent geopolitical border control affects narrative structure and the boundary-work of storytelling as such.

We are interested primarily in interfaces between these two formative institutions of modernity: movement control and the novel. As one of society's privileged media of self-reflection, novels can both model existing patterns of movement within geopolitical orders and imagine alternative scenarios of mobility. In particular, we want to pursue how literature variously reflects, responds to and challenges the modern regimes of movement control – through narrative form and the multiple perspectives of migrants, travelers, and other border-crossers. In order to foster a comparative analysis of the intersections of movement control and literature in the European context and beyond, we invite contributions that offer new takes on the history of the novel from the point of view of mobility and movement control.

Possible topics:
- Passport Plots
- Movement Control and Literary Space
- Different Paradigms or Figures of Mobility (Wanderers, Vagrants, Migrants, Travellers, Displaced Persons, Fugitives, etc.)
- Implications of Movement Control for Narrative Theory
- Movement Control and Literary Description/Realism, narrative strategies of response or resistance to movement control (narrative form, but also point of view, distributions of voice, and strategies of attention or affect-binding
- Passports and Identity
- Movement Control and Literary History/the History of the Novel

Jesper Gulddal & Charlton Payne

Contact emails: