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Imagining community, personhood and world-making in World Literature

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Organizer: A. Ozge Kocak Hemmat

Co-Organizer: James Tink

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Community, simply defined, is a network of individuals and groups, connected to one another on multiple intersecting accounts, ranging from needs, kinship and ethnicity to cultural, artistic or religious activity, as well as gender identity and social activism. It is also an ongoing word-making activity. However, our idea of community is frequently challenged in a world transformed continually by technological and scientific developments, social/political upheavals, and the ever-impending climate crisis. As contemporary criticism continues to extend in scope from humanism towards post-human, catastrophic, or planetary approaches to literature, this seminar will share new ways in which to think of how fiction (broadly defined) can work as a fantasy of a relationship to the world, or to many other worlds; as well as how it shapes and imagines communities and community building. In the context of the modern and global novel, it seems worth investigating more closely what forms the sense of the world and of community, the illusory connections they reveal, and the abyss they uncover take in literary spaces.  

What is community consciousness and how does it relate to the world? How do we envision a present or future community, or its absence?  How is communal disintegration conceived and what alternatives to community open up in the absence of community? By what world-making processes are the communities replaced? What are the impacts of radical change such as war, social and technological change, migration, natural disasters or anticipated transformations on the possibility and impossibility of future communities?

This seminar welcomes papers that engage with these and related questions in world literature broadly conceived, including but not limited to approaches from modern and contemporary speculative fiction, indigenous literature, post-nationalist, post-human, post-colonial and decolonial literature, allegory and ideology in fiction, study of literary forms and affect studies.

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