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Intellectual Traditions and Literary Form beyond the Crisis of the Present

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Organizer: Liam O'Loughlin

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This seminar is an extension of an ACLA 2020 seminar entitled “Dreaming within/beyond the Crisis of the Present.” We seek to explore neglected intellectual histories that could reveal worlds beyond the crisis of the present and the contemporary “dystopian obsessions” that Frederic Jameson has recently criticized. What would articulating an alternative to capitalism and imperialism entail? What new or long-forgotten political imaginaries may arise as a result of this work of recovery, beyond criticizing the structures and ideologies of neoliberalism? As this seminar wagers, such recovery work needs to turn to the intellectual and political histories displaced by the age of market triumphalism: in particular, anti-imperialist thought and praxis. Moreover, as this seminar proposes, the interrogation of the role of critique and utopia in these traditions must be at the center of such a project, through revisiting the connections between literary form (the theater, the realist novel, poetic incantations, folk songs, etc.) and past socialist and anti-colonial struggles. How can we reconceive critique as politically transformative, rather than merely pathogenic? How can we de-Westernize the utopian and humanist traditions so as to reveal their emancipatory potentials? How does attention to the form of the realist novel help us not only elucidate the “slow violence” of neoliberalism but also revisit political projects from the past, such as international socialism? And, in turn, how can these acts of recovery lead us to envision new futures for these political projects, rather than merely indulging in acts of nostalgia?   We welcome papers that trace these alternative intellectual histories and/or interrogate the connections between utopia, critique, and literary form to political struggle.

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