Size and Scale in Literature and Culture -- Edited Essay Collection (abstracts due March 1, 2015)

full name / name of organization: 
Michael Tavel Clarke, University of Calgary & David Wittenberg, University of Iowa

The topic of scale is currently of great interest to scholars and readers in a number of fields in the humanities and social sciences. Questions of scale, size, and magnitude have become especially urgent in an era of simultaneous globalization and digitization, during which the domains of political, aesthetic, and ethical relationships between human beings are vastly expanded even as industrial technology achieves unprecedented levels of miniaturization. Arguably, contemporary critics and theorists must now catch up with longstanding inquiries and experiments on the significance of scale already undertaken within both the sciences and the self-conscious stylistic practices of twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature, film, and art. Furthermore, questions about the political roles and responsibilities of intellectuals increasingly involve issues of scale and size, both with respect to the very large (geopolitics, globalization, climate change and ecocriticism, "mass destruction," big data) and the very small (digitization, gene technology and biopolitics, localism, nanotechnology).

For this collection, we seek essays that address issues of scale, size, or magnitude from a wide range of literary, cultural, theoretical, and disciplinary perspectives. Essays may (but are not required to) take into account work by theorists such as Arjun Appadurai, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Timothy Clark, Mary Ann Doane, Mark Dorrian, Devin Fore, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Fredric Jameson, Rem Koolhaas, Mark McGurl, Franco Moretti, Timothy Morton, Rob Nixon, Jussi Parikka, Elaine Scarry, and Susan Stewart. Comparative and interdisciplinary work is invited and encouraged. Our goal is to foster conversations among thinkers, topics, and fields that might not usually be brought into contact with one another, as well as to explore new theoretical, artistic, and political implications of the problem of scale. We believe the collection should and will expand the terrain of debates about this complex and wide-ranging topic.

Please submit a 300–500 word abstract, contact information, and a brief bio or CV (preferably as MS Word attachments) to both Michael Tavel Clarke ( and David Wittenberg ( Completed essays should be between 6,000 and 10,000 words, including reference material.

Abstracts are due March 1, 2015. Completed essays will be due in July 2015 with the goal of a Fall 2015 or Winter 2016 publication date.

Possible topics and areas of interest (among others): size and scale in

• literary and artistic form, aesthetics, and analysis (minimalism, maximalism, miniaturization, gigantism, epic form, close/distant reading)
• film and aesthetics (special effects, screen size/format, protocinema, viewpoint)
• theories or practices of the sublime
• theories of gender and/or sexuality
• theories and/or representations of the body (disability studies, fatness studies, stature studies)
• cultural studies (quantification, population studies, localism/regionalism/globalism)
• environmentalism, ecocritism, and sustainability studies
• science fiction (shrinking/growing, long timelines, megastructures)
• technology (digitization, nanotechnology, gene technology, big data)
• architecture and urban planning (megastructuralism/metabolism, "bigness," the tiny house)
• economics (growth, downsizing and smart decline, economies of scale, "too big to fail")
• representation and media (scalar effects, ideologies of scale)
• history and historiography ("big history," the Anthropocene, long time)
• philosophy (object oriented ontology, cybernetics, actor-network theory)
• geography and cartography
• erotica (macrophilia, microphilia, fetishism)

Michael Tavel Clarke is Associate Professor of English at the University of Calgary. He is the author of These Days of Large Things: The Culture of Size in America, 1865-1930 (Michigan 2007). He is also an editor of ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature.

David Wittenberg is Associate Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and Cinematic Arts at the University of Iowa. He is the author of Time Travel: The Popular Philosophy of Narrative (Fordham 2013) and Philosophy, Revision, Critique: Rereading Practices in Heidegger, Nietzsche, and Emerson (Stanford 2001). He is currently completing a new book project entitled Big Culture: Toward an Aesthetics of Magnitude.