Working group on the novel

Please join us for the first meeting of the Working Group on the Novel of spring quarter, which will take place on Thursday, May 25, from 6:30-8:30 pm, Pigott Hall room 252.

Andrew Shephard (PhD candidate, English) will present a chapter of his dissertation entitled “All is Always Now”: Slavery, Retrocausality, and Recividistic Progress in Samuel R. Delany’s Empire Star (1966). Rachel Kirkwood (PhD candidate, English) will respond to Andrew’s work.

Here’s what Andrew has to say about the chapter:

In many ways, slavery can be considered the central issue of the African-American literary canon—even works which don’t address it directly are in some way grappling with its legacy. Though contemporary blacks have no direct experience of slavery themselves, they nonetheless continue to be affected by it—both psychologically, due to the awareness of the suffering of one’s ancestors, and more materially, due to the impact of historical contingency upon one’s own personal circumstances in the present. This, however, creates a significant formal problem with regard to literature—namely, how does one adequately represent such a fraught relationship to the past?

It is my contention that while realistic modes of representation can sometimes struggle with the abstraction of such concerns, the speculative genres such as science fiction provide a way of rendering these concepts into more concrete or accessible forms. A prime example would be Samuel Delany’s early novella Empire Star(1966), a revisionist space opera which uses the science fictional trope of the bootstrap paradox and Einsteinian theories of relativistic time as metaphors for the recurrence of slavery and imperialism throughout history. Delany’s projection of chattel slavery into the far future allows him to estrange the reader from a historical phenomenon that is both all too familiar and incomprehensibly alien. Moreover, in configuring his own contemporary moment as a “prehistory” to such a future, he suggests that we may not currently be as free of such behavioral patterns as we would like to believe.

spring 2017

2 May Cynthia Laura Giancotti DLCL on Knausgaard’s autobiographical novel 6:00pm to 8:00pm Terrace
25 may Andrew Shepherd English on representations of Africa in speculative fiction 6:30pm to 8:30pm Pigott Hall rm 252
6 june Boris Shoshitaishvili Comp
on “The Triadic hero of the Iliad” 6:00pm to 8:00pm Terrace

winter 2017

Sylvan Goldberg English on the poetics of complicity in Godwin’s Caleb Williams 6:00pm to 8:00pm Terrace
Tasha Eccles English on Chinese detective fiction 6:00pm to 8:00pm Terrace
28 February Abigail Droge English on working-class literacy movements and the 19th-century novel 6:00pm to 8:00pm Terrace

fall 2016

Nathan Wainstein English on novelistic retention 6:00pm to 8:00pm Terrace Room
Wei Peng EALC on Chinese detective fiction 6:00pm to 8:00pm Terrace Room
6 December Natalie Deam French on the French literary response to Darwin 6:00pm to 8:00pm TBA