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Genre and Neoliberalism

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Organizer: Paul Nadal

Co-Organizer: Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan

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This seminar offers the study of genre as a way to take up Leigh Claire La Berge and Quinn Slobodian’s recent call to better articulate the differentia specifica of literary studies’ contribution to the study of neoliberalism. Literary scholars working at the intersection of culture and economics have sought to elaborate the new forms of value, personhood, and power underlying contemporary neoliberal globalization. Yet the oversized influence of Foucault in this work has led to the critical tendency to attribute a universalizing agency to market relations such that the concept of neoliberalism itself risks becoming an undifferentiated abstraction. What might a historically oriented genre criticism contribute to the study of neoliberalism and its social forms? Can genre teach us to read literature in ways that historicize, rather than merely describe, neoliberalism? What can an analysis of the work of the neoliberals yield for literary studies? Can we read neoliberalism itself as a kind of genre, governed by its own internal chronotopes and rhetorical conventions?
Genres mark the historicity of aesthetic forms: they express socially situated modes of representing and experiencing time. Genres are also grounded in literary markets: they obtain in economies of taste and cultural capital that differentiate, however problematically, high from low and prestigious from non-prestigious, engendering ideals of “the good book” and “the good life.” Seminar participants are invited to explore how emergent, dominant, and marginal genres — from call center fiction to autofiction, self-help literature to the immigrant family romance, science fiction to the new black gothic, and so on — provide a way of specifying neoliberalism, to quote La Berge and Slobodian, as “a variety of capitalism rather than its final instantiation.” We are particularly interested in papers that pursue neoliberalism as a postwar international intellectual movement and as a racialized form of capitalist accumulation that restructures time and our relations to it. At stake here are questions of labor- and leisure-time, the temporalities of money circulation and social reproduction, as well as the way we imagine history, futurity, and the present. Will thinking temporally, as opposed to spatially, about the domains of literature and political economy serve to counter the false distinctions between the literary and economic, on the one hand, and politics and the economy, on the other? In what ways might genre criticism force us to rethink the relation of aesthetic and economic value amidst material conditions of debt, precarity, and inequality? How does the concept of genre register neoliberalism’s mediations of everyday life?

We are delighted that Leigh Claire La Berge will join the seminar as a respondent.

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Send a 200-250 word abstract using the submission link above by 9AM EST on Thurs, Sep 20. Direct questions to rtsrinivasan@email.arizona.edu & nadal@princeton.edu

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