Epic as World Genre (ACLA 2016)

full name / name of organization: 
Erin Singer / University of Houston
contact email: 

Seeking proposals for the seminar "Epic as World Genre" for the upcoming ACLA conference (Harvard University, March 17-20, 2016).

View this seminar description on the ACLA site: http://www.acla.org/seminar/epic-world-genre

Please submit a 250-word abstract and CV here (between 9/1 and 9/23) here: www.acla.org/annual-meeting

You may contact Erin Singer (the seminar organizer) at ecsinger@uh.edu with any questions.

Genre theorists have recently reinvigorated the study of lyric poetry, with scholars such as Virginia Jackson and Yopie Prins (The Lyric Theory Reader, 2013), Jahan Ramazani (Poetry and Its Others, 2013), and Jonathan Culler (Theory of the Lyric, 2015) arguing for a reconsideration of how we as critics think about the lyric. Building on this existing energy for the study of poetic genre, this seminar invites participants to theorize the epic as a way to think through new directions in world literature. Scholars such as Franco Moretti (Modern Epic, 1996) and Wai Chi Dimock ("Genre as World System," 2006) assert that epic is a world system driven by bricolage and recycling. David Damrosch, in a conversation with Gayatri Spivak ("Comparative Literature / World Literature," 2011), emphasizes how the epic of Gilgamesh circulates from Babylonia to Victorian England, concluding that the poem is something new at each point in the journey. In the longue durée of written history, the epic has borne witness to changing concepts of community, state, and nation, and necessarily functioned differently for its writers and readers depending on these circumstances. Simply put, epic is a world genre that has undergone change yet remained vital. The worldliness of epic has recently been revised as world capitalism itself mutates and expands, yielding global, postcolonial, and queer iterations of the genre. Below are some guiding questions for seminar participants:

What might a critical epic theory look like?

How does epic "do" theory?

What role does the epic play in nation-building, particularly in a globalized world?

How do we teach the epic in comparative literature, world literature, and national language and literature departments?

How do epic and lyric work together, and apart?

What is the relationship between narrative and epic?

What are the borders of epic?

How might we engage with the scale of epic?

How does epic reify or resist literary periodization?

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