No Way Forward? – Nonlinear Temporalities and 20th-Century Culture

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A roundtable at NeMLA / March 17-20, 2016 / Hartford, CT / Sara Marcus (Princeton University), Ezra Feldman (Cornell University)

The long twentieth century offers multiple examples of dramatic progress brought to a halt or even seemingly thrown into reverse: Freud writes about the first World War as foreclosing faith in human progress; the late '60s and early '70s brought complications to the Civil Rights movement and student movements; and the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001 undermined the narrative of American capitalist triumph that had held sway since the end of the Cold War.

As the surety of progress has come ever more into question, nonlinear temporalities have become increasingly visible, audible, and sensible in multiple forms and disciplines--in literature, sound, theater, film, and history, among other cultural practices. How have nonlinear temporalities (including but not limited to cyclical time, stasis, and multiple coexisting temporalities) in, for example, political protest, experimental music, or postmodernist fiction and poetry come into conversation with philosophy, cultural history, and the way we imagine the flow of time? Reinhart Koselleck's conceptual history represents just one possible resource for cultural critics seeking to analyze progress's instability; theorists as different from each other as Bruno Latour and Achille Mbembe also offer frameworks for thinking about nonlinear time.

For this roundtable, we invite proposals of short (5-10 minute) position papers that take up the relationship between cultural practices and nonlinear temporalities. Potential concepts and keywords include: spiral time; time of experience versus time of expectation; temporal dimensions of national/ethnic/sexual/racialized difference; postcoloniality and heterogeneous time; political feelings and outdated emotions; impasse; rhythm and periodicity; contemporaneous noncontemporaneities. This roundtable will invite lively and multidisciplinary conversation about the nonlinear temporalities particular to twentieth-century culture.

The CFP is online at
Please submit abstracts via the online system by September 30.
Send any questions to the session organizers: Sara Marcus and Ezra Feldman