Writing Catastrophe/Centering Realism: Textualizing Capitalism’s Disasters

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2022
full name / name of organization: 

In the current moment, there is no paucity of catastrophe writing. From apocalyptic speculative fiction, cli-fi, and other textual forms of disaster writing, catastrophe is too often conceived of as environmental events or disasters that already have occurred (tsunami; forest fires; hurricanes and floods) or will reliably occur in the future. Part of the problem with this textualization is that catastrophe often is seen as an event rather than a process. More pointedly, our critical attention has been (understandably) trained on the effects and harms of climate change rather than on capitalism’s disastrous drive for surplus extraction that renders life unlivable for millions in the here and now. Speculative fiction has been accorded a prime spot in rendering visible our collective catastrophic future and either directly or by default, realism has been relegated to a failed past. The attention on the former at the cost of the latter is as much an aesthetic as a political question.

In this panel we wish to explore this general proposition by paying attention to contemporary instances of realist fiction. How do we see contemporary novels (especially those written in the global South) engaging the “totality” of capitalism’s unending “accumulation by dispossession”? What are the enunciative capacities of realism in the present moment? We are particularly interested in papers that focus on realism in the global context. Are there new kinds of realisms emerging that record, represent, narrativize this ongoing catastrophe of which climate change is only one indexical signpost? What are some other indices with which the global anglophone novel is grappling? What are the instances and iterations of a generative and revitalized realism for our times?