(UPDATE) CFP: Peripheral Aesthetics and World Literature (Deadline March 10, 2015)

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MLA 2016

We invite proposals for an MLA special session on "Peripheral Aesthetics and World Literature" – Annual Convention of the Modern Language Association, Austin, Texas, January 7-10, 2016. In addition, a journal special issue/edited volume on the topic is being considered. An outline of the project is given below. Please send 300-400 abstracts and queries to Auritro Majumder (amajumder@uh.edu) and Sourit Bhattacharya (sourit.bhattacharya@warwick.ac.uk) by March 10, 2015.

Following the work of Fredric Jameson, the theoretical framework of "peripheral aesthetics," is understood as the set of representational strategies employed by artist-intellectuals outside the metropolitan core that correspond to the combined and uneven forms of development of the capitalist world-system. In "Third World Literature," (1986a) Jameson posits a paradigm of comparing "not … the individual texts, which are formally and culturally very different from each other, but of the concrete situations from which such texts spring and to which they constitute distinct responses". These "concrete situations" are historically particular yet structurally interdependent; Jameson defines the periphery as marking "the overlap or the coexistence of precapitalist with nascent capitalist or technological features" ("Magical Realism," 1986b). These insights have been developed by other contemporary scholars, such as the historian Harry Harootunian (2000) for Japan, and the "peripheral modernism" suggested by literary critics Benita Parry (2009) and Neil Lazarus (2011). The genealogy of peripheral aesthetics and combined and uneven development, can be traced through the work of Caribbean and Latin American interlocutors of the mid to late 20th century -- such as Alejo Carpentier, Erna Brodber, and Roberto Schwarz, who argue for what can be called a particular "regional modernism". Even earlier, following the Bolshevik Revolution that inaugurated the "anticolonial century" (Brennan 2014), European intellectuals such as Leon Trotsky, Theodor Adorno and Ernst Bloch, to name just a few, focused on relating national particularity to the uneven processes of capitalism rather than cultural essence (Trotsky 1930), and explored the notion of aesthetics as responding dialectically to these circumscribed particularities.

In recent times, the rise of "New Comparative Literature" and "World Literature" has moved the task of literary comparison away from its traditional intra-European preoccupations, and squarely brought attention to the literary productions from the colonial, semi-colonial and neo-colonial peripheries, as well as their circulation and reception in the metropole (particularly the work of materialist critics, Moretti, Huggan, Brouillette et al). In the plethora of terms from this emergence – the transnational or global turn, planetarity, new cosmopolitanism, migration etc., we feel that the changing yet continuous relationship between metropole and periphery – vitally important to the logic of "unilateral capital" (Amin 1997) -- has not been adequately theorized (at best) and mystified (at worst). Thus, insisting on the continued relevance and importance of understanding the contemporary, "globalizing" world-system as combined and uneven, we seek to explore the possibilities of "peripheral aesthetics" as a methodological and political framework for a materialist understanding of "world literature".

Certain possible ways of engagement could be:

The conceptual scope and linkages of peripheral aesthetics
Colonialism, neocolonialism and literary genres
Capitalist world-system and world-literature
Modes of reading: close, lateral, distant
Translations and global literary marketplace
Planetarity, inclusive comparativism, worldism
New social media and the circulation of art
Resistance, social movement, art
World ecology and anthropocene
World literature and postcolonial studies