Totality and Possibility in the Modern Novel

deadline for submissions: 
May 31, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Takashi Inoue and Mark Anderson
contact email: 

Symposium on Totality and Possibility in the Modern Novel

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The University of Tokyo (Komaba Campus, Bldg 18), Japan

As social and political polarization have prevailed across the world in recent years, it has become very difficult to imagine a totality in which disharmony exists harmoniously, without collapsing into catastrophe. Consequently, cultural imaginaries are increasingly fragmented, dystopian, even apocalyptic. In the current global state of precarity, it seems imperative to reconcieve of society as a complex, diverse totality that does not require the annulment, containment, exclusion, or eradication of difference to function. However, as the conflicts that have emerged from rising social and geopolitical inequalities have begun to show us, this conceptualization of society cannot rely exclusively on economic integration; other, more ethical forms of approaching multiplicities must be sought.

Since its inception as a literary form, the novel has served as a privileged space for representing and reimagining social totalities. The modern novel in particular has expanded the possibilities for polysemic, often contradictory expression through experimentation with language and realist aesthetics. This symposium aims to draw out the potentialities inherent in totalizing, but not totalitarian forms of literary representation. Rather than focusing on literature’s deconstructive tendencies, we look to make visible its construction of worlds that, if not necessarily utopian, nevertheless capture the inseparability of subject and system, of the multiplicity and the singular.

We invite scholars interested in the representation of totalities who specialize in any time period, genre, and theoretical approach to send 250 word abstracts for 20 minute papers and short bios to Takashi Inoue ( or Mark Anderson ( by May 31, 2017. General presentations, case studies, and specific analyses are equally welcome.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Theory of the Modern Novel
  • Aesthetics of Totality
  • The French Literary Tradition and the Representation of Social Totalities (Balzac, Proust, Blanchot, Sartre, Rolland, etc.)
  • Mallarmé and the Concept of the Total Book
  • Latin American Narrative and Totalities
  • The Borgesian Library
  • Mishima and Totality
  • Postwar Literature In Japan
  • James Joyce and Modern Philosophy