PAMLA18 The Material Politics of Feeling in Contemporary American Literature

deadline for submissions: 
May 30, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Alex Miller/University of Washington Tacoma
contact email: 

Friday, November 9, 2018 to Sunday, November 11, 2018, Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington

This panel seeks contributions interested in exploring the cultural and material conditions that have motivated the “affective turn” within contemporary literary production and critique.  How are contemporary novelists creating works that imagine artistic spaces “beyond postmodernism,” and what is the role of feeling within our understanding of these spaces?

Since the publication of David Foster Wallace’s “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction,” there has been increased critical attention focusing on how contemporary authors have distinguished their work from that of their postmodern predecessors.  As a periodizing concept, “the new sincerity”--a post-postmodern aesthetic organized around an unironic fidelity to human emotion--seemed to signify a break from the detached stylistic pyrotechnics of the high postmodernists and an earnest return to the subject.  This “affective turn” has provided authors and critics alike an opportunity to (re)consider literature’s capacity to inspire empathy within its reader, and, as a result, to affect real change in the world beyond its margins.

In recent years, however, scholars have pushed back against this critical trend by interrogating affective literature’s participation within the neoliberal marketplace.  Rachel Greenwald Smith, among others, have suggested that our current preoccupation with the affective potential of literature may have more to do with how readers have come to see themselves as consumers than it has to do with the actual work of contemporary writers.  This panel seeks to explore how contemporary authors and critics are reconciling these positions by inviting proposals focused on how specific novelists negotiate the material politics of feeling.

Submission Deadline: May 30th

Conference information and proposal submission etiquette can be found at