History and Technology in Contemporary American Literature
As Carroll Pursell suggests in Technology in Postwar America, technology enabled America to develop global prominence in the 20th century. And in seems poised to do the same in the 21st. Yet the relationship Americans have with technology is thorny. For instance, Thomas L. Friedman lauds technology, observing that “Globalization 3.0,” a new era in global history that is marked by digital developments, is leveling the playing field (The World is Flat 10). By contrast, Don DeLillo critiques American relationships with technology, suggesting that “technology is our fate, our truth,” and it makes “it possible for us to claim our future”—but perhaps at the expense of meaningful understanding and interconnection (“In the Ruins of the Future” 37). Alternately still, fundamentalists may outright condemn the technologically infused future in conducting their “war against secular modernity” (Karen Armstrong, The Battle for God vii). And their hostility speaks to Make America Great Again, American President Donald Trump’s slogan, which indicates a widespread desire to relive an ambiguous moment in history—or at least embrace the exceptionalist and arguably bigoted mentality of that moment. It speaks to what Edoardo Campanella and Marta Dassù term Anglo nostalgia, the nationalistic notion that “[y]esterday is associated with progress; tomorrow with stasis or regression” (1).
How do American authors and authors writing about America explore the tension between nostalgia and technological development and between history and the technologically advanced future? How do they romanticize or critique the past in literature about the globalizing or globalized world? What kind of future do these authors desire? And what role do nostalgia, memory, history, and technology play in their representations of America? This panel invites proposals that explore these or similar questions in late-20th- and early 21st-century works of literature.
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