The Literary Canon and Sociohistorical Performances

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SAMLA 86: Humanities and Sustainability Nov. 7 - 9 2014 Atlanta, GA
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Postcolonial Studies astutely points to Literature as a carrier of inscriptions that perpetuate race, gender, and class disparities. Even as Roland Barthes points out that texts are loaded with social and ideological values, critics such as Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o and Franz Fanon detail the effects of social values on peoples that Western Empires and their Literatures subjugate. As a result, the Western canon has become suspect to the point that multiculturalism is disbanding the canon instead of widening its inclusiveness. Yet, as Toni Morrison claims, dismissing the classics eschews critical studies in psychology, history, and sociology. The classics, Morrison claims, have value in what they can teach us about our world. In other words, they can sustain humanity insomuch as critical analysis of them make us aware of the ways humanity is infected and inflicted with ideologies that divide the globe.

In this vein, this panel seeks to expound upon the idea that Literature and literary analysis are tools that develop and sustain humanity in so much that Literature can be studied, according to Joseph Roach, as sociohistorical performances that can teach us about our present condition. Students often miss opportunities to connect literature to sociology, psychology, history, and philosophy because they miss the sociohistorical performances within the stories. As educators, we need to help students make those connections, even as we approach Literature as lessons to apply so that those lessons sustain our students' humanity and educational experience.

This panel seeks to answer two questions: What can Literature teach us about humanity, history, psychology, and sociology? How can literature teach us social theories in ways that historians, psychologist, sociologists, theorists, and philosophers cannot?

Please send a 300 word abstract to Dr. Ren Denton at by June 10, 2014.