To Shape and Share Otherwise: Neoliberalism and the Contemporary Novel

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Steven Delmagori, University at Albany, SUNY
contact email: 

"The only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does compete with life."

                                                                        --Henry James in "The Art of Fiction"


According to Wendy Brown, under neoliberalism, the human subject shifts from homo politicus toward homo oeconomicus, and, as such, any and all aspects of life mutate into individual capital; likewise, all sociality transitions into predominantly economic forms. Neoliberalism thus reifies and commodifies identity and social relation in unprecedented ways. This process is its own condition and telos, flattening time into a perpetual present with no possible future while appropriating the past and subsuming all cultures and subjectivities into the logic of the free market. In our contemporary moment, such objectification compounds histories of oppression already bound up in inequality, while, simultaneously, incorporating marginalized subjects into the ever-expansive logic of late capitalism. Given these far-reaching consequences, neoliberalism's relationship to literary and cultural studies cannot be overstated.


For Mathias Nilges, the novel-form disrupts the all-encompassing nature of the neoliberal contemporary, providing a means for unmasking its universalizing logic. The novel is therefore uniquely situated to investigate neoliberalism and how the emphasis on human capital affects marginalized and oppressed communities. This panel will examine the ways in which identity and sociality are shaped and shared temporally and spatially through analyses that consider the relationship between neoliberalism and the contemporary novel. This panel seeks readings of contemporary novels to explore the ways in which identities become both reified and commodified under neoliberalism; how temporality is read and theorized under neoliberalism; how the novel counter-narrates neoliberalism's re-territorialization of space and property; and what theoretical and material means exist for formulating resistance and the possibility of post-neoliberal futures.


This session is part of the 51st NeMLA Convention to be held in Boston from 5 - 8 March, 2020. Please submit your abstracts (300 words) through NeMLA's website: In order to submit your abstracts, you will have to create an account on NeMLA's website. This panel is co-chaired by Steven Delmagori and Joshua Keller, both PhD candidates in English at the University at Albany, SUNY.