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The Genre Turn in Multiethnic Literature (ACLA 2024)

Organization: American Comparative Literature Association
Event: ACLA 2024
Categories: Comparative, Literary Theory, African-American, 20th & 21st Century, 20th & 21st Century, Narratology
Event Date: 2024-03-14 to 2024-03-17 Abstract Due: 2023-09-30

Submission link: https://www.acla.org/node/add/paper

In his landmark essay, "The Second Elevation: Race, Form, and the Postrace Aesthetic in Contemporary Narrative," Ramón Saldívar proclaimed the arrival of a "cohort of contemporary authors . . . [who] all raise as formal and thematic concerns the very nature of genre itself in relation to matters of racial identity.” According to Saldívar, this turn to genre “includes not just the canonic paradigms of classical, neoclassical, romantic, realist, and modernist origin, but also their outcast, lowbrow, vernacular, not to say kitschy varieties of what has come to be known as genre fiction, including the fantasy, sci-fi, gothic, noir, and erotic speculative writings of the postwar era” (4).

This seminar seeks to investigate the social, political, and aesthetic valences of the genre turn in contemporary multiethnic literature, a trend that is both contiguous with and distinct from the postmodern deployment of popular genre: as Theodore Martin has put it, whereas postmodernism frequently performed “superficial pastiches of dead styles,” the genre turn embodies “earnest attempts to contribute to the history of a given genre.” In the US alone there has been an upsurge in what Andrew Hoberek calls “literary genre fiction” by ethnic authors: zombie narratives by Ling Ma and Junot Díaz; detective stories by Percival Everett and Carmen Maria Machado, magical realist novels by Colson Whitehead and Jesmyn Ward, science fictions by Charles Yu and Ta-Nehisi Coates. Describing the political potential of this nascent movement, Betsy Huang argues that “a restructuring of genre leads to nothing short of the restructuring of the knowledge it produces about the world and the people it depicts.” If this is indeed the case, how does genre renovate knowledge? What new forms of knowledge do genres enable? More broadly, why have recent works of multi-ethnic literature made the turn to genre? Is the genre turn a historically distinct phenomenon? What are the politics of generic forms? Is genre a disciplinary regime or an emancipatory apparatus? Are there certain conditions of the present that are better represented in the speculative registers of genre? What is it about genre that might appeal to BIPOC authors in particular? How does genre enable the interrogation of racial, gender, class-based, or other forms of difference? In short, as Saldívar provocatively inquires, “How do [generic] forms adjust the traditional modes of literary realism to represent the experiences of decolonization, modernization, and postmodernity”?

Scholars are invited to submit abstracts (max. 300 words) for 20-minute presentations and short author bios through the submission portal beginning on Sept. 1st. Please note that current ACLA guidelines specify that each ACLA member may appear on only one panel.

Submission link: https://www.acla.org/node/add/paper



Timothy Lem-Smith