Unexpected Excesses: Nonviolence in Contemporary Transgressive Fiction

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Rebecca Warshofsky / Northeast Modern Language Association
contact email: 

To transgress is to exceed, violate, or infringe upon a law, rule, or convention. When transgression occurs, it often manifests as violence — crime, terrorism, bodily mutilation, etc. — because these are obvious signifiers that a significant legal, social, or moral boundary has been crossed. But the mechanism of transgression, which is always present in society and always necessary for its evolution, can also take subtler forms, manifesting as disgust or abjection (Julia Kristeva), sexuality or eroticism (Georges Bataille), laughter or carnival (Mikhail Bakhtin), etc. If the blatant nature of a violent transgression signifies a disruption to a dominant narrative, such as capitalism, neoliberalism, heteronormativity, etc., what might nonviolent forms of transgression signify about subverting the more implicit rules, tacit morals, and covert facets of the systems and institutions that govern our experience?

For instance, the protagonist of Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation sleeps excessively — using drugs to self-induce a hibernation-like state for several months — to push back against feminist assertions of beauty, work, and success. The protagonist of Abandon by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay uses excessive sloth, leisure, and laziness as a form of both civil disobedience and identity formation. The protagonists of Noise by Darin Bradley use analog technology — excessive in its presumed obsolescence — to undermine society’s institutions and thereby construct their own, alternative realities. Analyzing such bizarre, absurd, or uncanny transgressions points out weaknesses in the systems that give rise to them, thereby opening up a space in which change can take place. What other forms does nonviolent transgression take, and which aspects of society are being critiqued, subverted, rejected, or overcome as a result? How do contemporary works of transgressive fiction use nonviolent transgressions to explore questions about the changing natures of gender, sex, sexuality, race, class, ability, or conformity? This panel welcomes papers that criticize, theorize, and otherwise engage with such questions in order to interrogate what nonviolent transgressions can offer as methods for bringing about new alternatives for engaging with the world.

Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words to https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/20576 by September 30, 2023.