NeMLA 2020: The Politics of ‘Post’ in American Literature

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Meghan Burns and Kelly Mahaffy, University of Connecticut
contact email: 

In a 2009 article in American Literary History, Richard Gray critiqued the production of post-9/11 novels, writing that such literary works “simply assimilate the unfamiliar into familiar structures.” Yet scholarly work on contemporary U.S. fiction seems to return again and again to a focus on literary production in terms of its relationship to the 2001 tragedy. In this panel, we seek to interrogate the way the concept of “post” has come to influence and, perhaps, even define the American literary canon. 

“Post” is a label that demands a simultaneous attention to and distance from temporality and genre. This panel will explore the impulses behind such naming, considering not only the genre of Post-9/11, but also labels such as Post-War, Postmodernism, and Posthuman. Gray postulates that the former is merely making a traumatic event legible in forms with which we are already familiar, but we hope to explore and challenge such a reading in a broader interrogation of “post” literature. How does this term function within literary production, scholarly criticism, and even the marketing of U.S. fiction? How can rhetorics of “post” elite or omit particular narratives, histories, or works? How does “post” speak to, ignore, or silence issues of race, class, gender, and geography? What considerations must scholars attend to as we continue to study texts that fit or resist these paradigms?

We welcome broad interpretations of the term “post” as it applies to American literature, as well as historical, contemporary, or future-looking theorizations of the term itself. We are particularly interested in papers that work to consider “post” in conjunction with the conference theme of shaped or shared identities in an increasingly global world.