The Material Turn in Comparative Literature (ACLA 2021)

deadline for submissions: 
October 31, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Oliver Aas (Cornell University)
contact email: 

What does "materiality" mean for the study of literature, culture, and the environment today? Should we replace “outdated” theoretical models (i.e. Marxist materialism) with newer ones or is it possible to establish a productive dialogue between seemingly disparate generations or paradigms of thought?

Amitav Ghosh, for instance, laments the centrality of individual human adventure and the banishment of the collective from the modern novel, calling for a new literature or aesthetics that goes beyond seeing nonhuman materialities as a supplements to human life. But have agentive nonhuman phenomena have really been absent in the literary or cultural tradition? If we were to notice more-than-human forms or ecologies in canonical or non-canonical works of the past and the present, what would we discover and how could we recuperate it for our epochal predicament?

Literature is by no means the only format that deals with the questions we are trying to tackle. Questions concerning “materiality” are brought up by performance, theatre, film, and visual arts. How do these forms contest or bear witness to different “materialisms”? We welcome proposals that deal with our theoretical interests through “traditional” means like literature as well as through new and novel media.

The ACLA annual meeting will take place virtually between April 8-11, 2021.

Apply through the ACLA portal (