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Fragments of a Theoretical Discourse. A New Lexicon for Literature

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Organizer: Emily Apter

Co-Organizer: Emmanuel Bouju

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Since the present has no sequel, no established future, it’s always difficult to define it or to give it a name. The “post” solution has long prevailed, obscuring the fact that “post-ness” can itself have an “afterward”. But is the present still postmodern in any of the senses meant by Lyotard, Vattimo, Jameson, Linda Hutcheon, or Brian McHale? In the English-speaking world, postmodernity is often considered outmoded, (especially in relation to the current regime of historicity and its “compression of the present.”  Some argue that “the postmodern condition” has been superseded by a “post-political” condition of the aging Capitalocene, rife with culture wars that deflect attention from the imperatives of racial justice.  At a moment of historical development marked by accelerationism and catastrophism- the circulation of information on a world scale, the spread of political upheaval, the contagion of biological and ecological threats of all sorts – Jeffrey T. Nealon’s term “post-postmodernity” has been employed to underscore postmodernism’s intensification in the era of neocapitalism’s final unraveling. But at that point, waiting for this dubious unraveling, contemporary terminology seems to resemble a sidestep or a dead-end deviation on the part of the past. Starting with Epimodernism (and its six values derived from Calvino’s Memos for the New Millenium: Superficiality, Secret, Energy, Acceleration, Credit, and Consistency), and taking a cue from Catherine Malabou’s notion of “epigenetics” (with the prefix “epi,” meaning “on,” or “among,” and connoting the folded membrane or sac associated by Malabou with the “plasticity of life”), we would propose “epi” as an alternative to  “post,” even while acknowledging that certain features of postmodern critique –  radical skepticism towards institutions of authority, decentered ontologies, experiments with historicist montage to name but a few – remain essential to any new theoretical lexicon of literature.

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