Organization: Northeast Modern Language Association
Paul Auster’s In The Country of Last Things (1987) features a world in which material production has ceased. This lack of resources leads to widespread repurposing of remaining materials, high illness and death rates, and increased social isolation and separation.
In a letter to a childhood friend, protagonist Anna Blume writes:
“What strikes me as odd is not that everything is falling apart, but that so much continues to be there. It takes a long time for a world to vanish, much longer than you would think. Lives continue to be lived, and each one of us remains the witness of his own little drama. It’s true that there are no schools anymore; it’s true that the last movie was shown over five years ago…but is that what we mean by life? Let everything fall away, and then let’s see what there is.” (28-9)
Auster’s novel is, like much dystopian fiction, prescient. We live in a world of increased vanishings: traditions fade, materials become scarce or obsolete, institutions become defunct, people die or go missing—and we are forced to adapt. This panel will explore the spaces in literature and culture that are created by the vanished and the ways that we negotiate and fill those spaces.
Papers may reflect on the following questions:
What narratives are constructed around the vanished person, object, tradition, or institution? What presence fills the absence? How is the vanished politicized? How do we adapt to the absence, and what happens when the vanished reappears? How can we turn to literature and the humanities to help us negotiate current and potential vanishings?
Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words by September 30 to NeMLA's online portal: https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/Login
For information on NeMLA's guidelines for abstracts: http://www.buffalo.edu/nemla/convention/callforpapers/submit.html
Questions can be emailed to LoNewco1@wsc.edu
The 2021 NeMLA convention is held March 11-14 in Philadelphia, PA.