NeMLA Roundtable: Carefully Realist: (Re)turn of Realist Fiction in the Era of Globalized Crisis

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association

Realism, which had played an important role in the literary output of the era of decolonization, is now often cast as outmoded, especially in comparison to post/modernism and impugned as insufficient to represent the current crisis. Mark Fisher and Amitav Ghosh are two of the most recent, widely read critics who maintain realism is incapable to address the politics of our times. Others, pointing to Lukács’ classical definition of realism as specific to bourgeois culture, argue that it is an inherently conservatism form, able only to depict the status quo, but incapable of imagining alternative frameworks for thinking about the world in an era of increased globalization and climate crisis. Against these dismissals of realism, other scholars, including Jed Esty, Colleen Lye, Joe Cleary, and Fredric Jameson have suggested the possibility of new realist projects, forms, or even a wider realist “turn”, particularly in postcolonial or "peripheral" spaces.

The roundtable/seminar is especially interested in instances of realist fiction's ability to carefully--that is conscientiously and meticulously--explore, interrogate, and expose questions of power in the current conjuncture. What, if any, are the instances of realism's efficacy in representing the systemic and deliberate arrangements —spatial, social, political, and economic—that have brought us to the edge of extinction? How does realism mediate contemporary crises and catastrophe across the dividing lines of the global north versus global south? Can realism be deployed in productive, even revolutionary, ways to project, imagine, encourage care without erasing social, cultural, political divisions? What would it mean for fiction to be "carefully realistic"?

We wish to engage these questions via the exploration of a wide range of textual forms in global anglophone literatures that include but are not restricted to speculative and science fiction, petro-and detective fiction, fictions of catastrophe and disaster, texts of eco-imaginative futurity.

Please submit abstracts via the NeMLA website: by September 30th, 2021