Transfigurations: Why Theory Matters When Reading 'Minority' Literatures

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Victoria A. Chevalier/ NEMLA
contact email: 

Transfigurations: Why Theory Matters When Reading 'Minority' Literatures (Panel)  

Primary Area / Secondary AreaComparative Literature / AmericanChair(s)

Victoria Chevalier (Medgar Evers College, CUNY)


Since the 1980’s literary criticism in the Americas has increasingly turned to theory as a hermeneutic tool to explicate complex cultural, political, historical, and psychological elements in “minority” literatures in the Americas, and globally. Theory, in this sense, functions as a hermeneutic bridge that insists on the diversity of presence, across time and place. Traumatic memory, the interrogation of the binary in poststructuralism, the subaltern in postcolonial theory, the abject in psychoanalytic discourse, serve as examples of how theory attempts to explore and expand upon othered existences and widen the parameters of how we relate and understand the layers of our social worlds. The gaps and excesses in the work of “minority’” writers calls for a multi-angled lens through which the reader may radically plumb marginalized histories and experiences throughout. If theory matters it is because it directs us to an out-side in order to articulate alternate imaginaries and in doing so generates forms of cultural translation and political possibility. Indeed, in “minority” literatures theory becomes a necessary component in the reading and interpretive process inasmuch as “minority” literature is a theoretical venture itself, recreating global cultural imaginaries that enable race, gender, class, and sexual difference, in theory and practice, to flourish. Thus, this panel not only examines how theory enhances our readings of “minority” literatures as productive extensions of their work, but, furthermore, how “minority” literatures come to theorize theory, and how these creative efforts contribute to something beyond theory: the restructuring of material exploitations in the social world.