World Pictures: Rethinking Encyclopaedic Fictions (ACLA 2017, Utrecht, July 6-9)

deadline for submissions: 
September 23, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
Kiron Ward (University of Sussex)
contact email: 

Encyclopaedic fictions are being studied increasingly comparatively: with such studies as Hilary Clark’s The Fictional Encyclopaedia (1990), Franco Moretti’s Modern Epic (1996), Stefano Ercolino’s The Maximalist Novel (2014), and Paul St. Amour’s Tense Future (201 5), as well as forthcoming studies like Nick Levey’s Maximalism in Contemporary American Literature (2016) and Antonio Barrenechea’s America Unbound (2016), critical attention has turned to assessing the commonalities between these daunting, ambitious, totalising texts—and away from single-author approaches. This has occurred at the same time as both a small boom in scholarly work on the history of encyclopaedic thought and the growth, via Wikipedia, of new encyclopaedic paradigms—studies like Encyclopaedism from Antiquity to the Renaissance (König & Woolf, 2013), Literature and Encyclopaedism in Enlightenment Britain (Rudy, 2014), and ‘Wikipedia and Encyclopedic Production’ (Loveland & Reagle, 2013) have begun reshaping the ways in which the history and practice of encyclopaedism is conceived.

This seminar seeks to develop this work. To what extent are authors of such fictions engaging with specific traditions, as manifested in projects like the BritannicaEncyclopédie, or Wikipedia? How do they mediate different ways of thinking and knowing? Are encyclopaedic fictions anti-encyclopaedic? From a literary perspective, how do the terms ‘encyclopaedic,’ ‘maximalist,’ and ‘total/totalizadora’ relate to one another? Do encyclopaedic fictions have a particular connection to the ‘postmodern’ and/or the ‘epic’ and/or ‘globalisation’? How do we, as comparativists, challenge the perception that such novels are ‘written mainly…by white Protestant males’ (Karl, American Fictions: 1980-2000, 2001, p. 162)? And what happens to the category of ‘world literature’ when we do?

Proposals focusing on women authors and authors of colour, who are frequently overlooked in discussions of encyclopaedism, are especially welcome. Authors who may be discussed include but are by no means limited to:

  • Bolaño
  • Borges
  • Broch
  • Cervantes
  • Cortázar
  • DeLillo
  • Dos Passos
  • George Eliot
  • Flaubert
  • Madox Ford
  • Fuentes
  • Gadda
  • Gaddis
  • García Márquez
  • Galeano
  • Ma Jian
  • Joyce
  • Thomas King
  • Hong Kingston
  • Kiš
  • Lezama Lima
  • Marechal
  • Melville
  • Fernando del Paso
  • Pavić
  • Perec
  • Proulx
  • Proust
  • Pynchon
  • Queneau
  • Rabelais
  • Dorothy Richardson
  • Rushdie
  • Sebald
  • Silko
  • Sterne
  • Swift
  • Wallace
  • Yamashita

If you are interested in submitting, please contact the seminar organiser (Kiron Ward). Paper proposals must be submitted through the ACLA’s online submission portal, which will be open from September 1 to September 23, 2016.