Poetics and Politics of Place: Literature, Hegemony, and Resistance

deadline for submissions: 
September 23, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
ACLA 2017, Utrecht
contact email: 

Organizers: J. Engel Szwaja Franken and Samuel Jaffee

To submit an abstract, please follow the instructions at acla.org

This seminar will begin by proposing that literature has been instrumental both in the construction and maintenance of national hegemonies, and in projects of resistance to them. As we consider literature’s contributions to the poetics of place and places, we will remain close to this dialectic. That is, we will focus on the productive tension of this contradictory interdependence and its effects both in literature and in the wider politics of region and place. We will examine both how national hegemony marks the space of literature and how literature places a certain tension on the space of the nation.

These questions are situated within a long critical tradition of thinking the tension between a regional consciousness and modernity. For example, Ángel Rama proposed a regionalist map of Latin America “accrediting” the existence of cultures outside of hegemony. Yet while that map was derived from his reading of Latin America’s literatures, Rama also theorized the role of literature in the construction and exercise of state power. Frederic Jameson argued that a region is not “a rural place that resists the nation and its power structures but rather a whole culturally coherent zone (which may also correspond to political autonomy) in tension with the standardizing world system as a whole”—a world system in which the nation remains a privileged, standardized form. More recently, Alberto Moreiras has argued for regional thinking that “takes the subaltern perspective, formally defined as the perspective from the constitutive outside of hegemony, as the starting point for a critique of contemporary consciousness.”

These approaches share a commitment to critically examining the texts generated by this tension between national hegemony and its others. We invite submissions in this vein from a range of regions, national literatures, languages, and theoretical lenses. Possible topics may include:

–The construction of regional consciousness (e.g. Juan Rulfo’s ekphrasis or J. M. Arguedas’s Quechua poetry)

–Multiple logics in the construction of a contested place (e.g. William T. Vollmann’s writings on the Imperial Valley)

–The relationship of nation as form, and the formal, generic dimension of literature (e.g. Alice Munro’s representing the Canadian nation and its regions)

–Ecocritical approaches to setting and landscape as identitarian arguments (e.g. Dorothy Hewett’s Australian pastoral)

–Genealogies of places and peoples at the margins of the national center (e.g. Edouard Glissant’s novels on Martinique)

–Literary challenges to nationalist projects (e.g. Rosario Castellanos’s critique of shared belief in Mexico)

–The politics of nostalgia and reappropriation of pre-national social life (e.g. Joseph Roth on Habsburg Galicia)

We are also open to comparative work on the contributions of other arts to this problematic.