SAMLA Special Session: Big Books: Why Bother?

deadline for submissions: 
May 27, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Dr. Benjamin Bergholtz/ Georgia Institute of Technology
contact email: 


South Atlantic Modern Language Association; November 8-10, 2019; Atlanta, Georgia; Special Session

In an age of overstimulation, “information overload,” and (allegedly) shrinking attention spans, a genre of fiction that appeared to peak in the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s—that is, the big, postmodern novel—has made a comeback. Whether one calls it the maximalist novel, the Mega-Novel, the encyclopedic narrative, or “hysterical realism,” the strange, sprawling novel has become increasingly popular and, with postcolonial and global authors such as Salman Rushdie, Roberto Bolaño, Zadie Smith, Vikram Chandra, Marlon James, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie contributing to the genre in the last few decades, increasingly diverse.  The obvious question is why: why do authors continue to write—and why do people continue to read—erudite and encyclopedic novels?  What are some of the imaginative, intellectual, ethical, and political consequences of spending weeks, and even months, reading a single text?  Why, as our session title indicates, do people continue to “bother” with “big books”?

 This panel, to be presented at SAMLA 91 in Atlanta, Georgia, seeks papers that analyze the maximalist novel, broadly defined.  Possible topics include:-the challenges and benefits of reading big books.-maximalism and ethics, politics, history, etc.-the gender, class, racial, and/or sexual politics of big books-genre conventions and terminology-the maximalist novel: a global or American genre?-maximalism and globalization-Close readings of individual texts-analysis of the oeuvre of one or more maximalist novelists -the history and/or future of the genre-maximalism and modernism, postmodernism, etc. If you are interested in presenting a 15 minute paper/presentation on these or related topics, please send a 250-word abstract, a brief bio, and A/V requirements to Dr. Benjamin Bergholtz at, by May 27th. Benjamin Bergholtz is a Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow at Georgia Institute of Technology.  He teaches multimodal composition courses on global Anglophone literature, postcolonial studies, and big books. CFP is also available on SAMLA website: