Small Town-projections in Literature and Film: Sadness, Terror, and Sociability

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Werner Nell / Queen's University Kingston Ontario, Canada
contact email: 

Sesssion on the 2022 NeMLA Conference in Baltimore (March 10-13th)

Within the range of the coziness of the petit-bourgeois settings in the 19th century small town worlds as we read about them in Trollope’s novels or Gottfried Keller’s stories on the one hand and the small-town dangers and ambivalent images we see in David Lynch’s movies on the other, a wide range of experiences, narratives and conceptions appear when it comes to dealing and referring to small town settings in literature and film. From many perspectives, small towns are caught up within an intermediate position; historically between a pre-modern and an urbanized “established modernity”, socio-economically between villages and cities, legally with almost autonomous rules or intersecting regulations, politically between proto-republican corporative and egalitarian structures, ideologically oscillating between concepts of civic and bourgeois societies. While modernity is conceptualized in reference to the metropolis or city and anti- or counter-modernity discourses are largely affiliated with the village, small towns are frequently situated within processes of transitions, even more as in a lot of texts and accounts the anachronistic appearance and function of small towns shows them as resistant, remote or distorted caught up within the different processes of modernization. On the other hand, small towns are not only still attractive in stories (from 19th century’s realism to murder mysteries and dystopia of today); for millions of people all over the world, including the most industrialized countries as well, small-town living is still the ground and framework for people leading their life and organizing themselves as individuals and as a community in reference to it. How much art is there to find, is to be seen in Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson” (2016). Therefore, it does not seem surprising that in reference to 19th and 20th century small-town worlds, surroundings and experiences are still valid and appear to be attractive in literature, film and TV, also in forms and features of digital world-modelling of today.

This session invites papers dealing with small town experiences and the modelling of small-town worlds and its demands and challenges of neighborhood, communality, social deprivation with regard to present-day aspects including the needs or chances of a “common ground” in the small everyday life worlds (Bettina Luckmann) in literature, film, and other media.