Ruined Hope: Experiments in Negation, Nihilism, and Possibility (ACLA 2022)

deadline for submissions: 
October 31, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
American Comparative Literature Association
contact email: 

The critical (re)turn to negation has provoked unprecedented attention to hope and hopelessness as key terms of contemporary living and dying. In her monograph on ecological crisis and political theology, Catherine Keller argues that hope must be decoupled from optimism. Where optimism and pessimism determine their outcomes in advance, hope takes root in uncertainty and remains there. The point of hope is, after all, that we cannot know how something will go.

This seminar is an experiment in negation and its others. We seek to convene thinkers of hope and hopelessness around critical, theological, and literary tactics of negation—as reactions, as remedies, and as refusals of the world’s most violent and unlivable constraints. We look to the antihumanisms of Afropessimism, the death drives of queer negativity, the erasures of found poetics, the ruined worlds of speculative fiction, the catastrophic climates of ecocriticism, and the unsayings of negative theology, finding in them apocalyptic veins of negation both with and against the figure of hope.

We invite papers that consider hope in its most negative forms, those meeting places of desire and disappointment where hope might undo itself. If hope isn’t a promise of fulfillment but an attempt to stay with uncertainty, how might it help or fail to help us encounter the brutality of our world and its ruins? How do hopeless, mournful, nihilistic, and bleak forms of hope invite us to think? How might literature refuse or refigure the sustaining contradictions of hope? What is the use of hope and its negation?

Link to ACLA seminar description:

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