AàC | Meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association | 23 sept. 2016

Annual Meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association

(Utrecht University, 6-9 July 2017)

Organizers: Alberto Godioli (University of Groningen), Bart Van Den Bossche (University of Leuven), Carmen Van den Bergh (University of Leuven).

We welcome contributions focussing on the non-human in its various forms (animals, the environment at large, landscapes, objects, prosthetics, props, etc.) from a broad variety of perspectives, including (but not limited to) animal studies, ecocriticism, thing theory, cognitive studies, trans- and post-humanism. Modernism will be addressed as a global phenomenon, spanning roughly from the second half of the 19th century to the 1950s.

Proposals can be submitted by Friday 23 September 2016 via the link provided in the panel description (http://www.acla.org/posthumanist-modernism). Please feel free to contact us for any queries regarding the panel or the selection procedure.


 Panel theme

‘The idea originated in a comparison between Humanity and Animality’, Balzac famously wrote in his preface to La Comédie Humaine (1842); ‘the Animal takes its external form, or the differences in its form, from the environment in which it is obliged to develop. Zoological species are the result of these differences. […] I perceived that in this respect society resembled nature.’ A partly similar parallel between zoology and literature can be found in Luigi Pirandello’s preface to a classic of Italian and international modernism: ‘In the world of natural history there is a Kingdom reserved for zoology because it is inhabited by animals. Among the animals which so inhabit it is man. And the zoologist may talk of man and say, for example, that man is not a quadruped but a biped, and that he does not have the tail that the monkey, the donkey, or the peacock has’ (The Late Mattia Pascal, 1921 edition). While criticizing zoology for its allegedly standardized conception of the human being, Pirandello adheres to the zoological paradigm in one crucial respect – humans and nonhuman animals, as well as society and nature, are not merely similar and comparable (as implied by Balzac), but rather parts of a manifold continuum (‘among the animals is man’).

The difference between Balzac’s and Pirandello’s prefaces well exemplifies a fundamental feature of modernist literature, namely its new gaze on nonhuman alterity. Writing during or after the Darwinian turn, several modernist authors tend to undermine the basic assumptions of anthropocentrism, and open up to a rethinking of humankind’s relationship not only to animality, but also to the natural and material world at large. The most significant occurrences of the nonhuman Other in modernism are, therefore, not merely symbols of human values or feelings; on the contrary, they are part of an attempt to represent a non-anthropocentric, ‘unrecognizable’ reality (Derek Ryan 2015). Posthumanist theories can indeed prove particularly useful in investigating this central aspect of late 19th- and early 20th-century literature and culture; conversely, modernism studies can bring a relevant contribution to current posthumanist debates.

Over the last decade, a growing number of studies has in fact engaged with modernist literature in a posthumanist perspective (e.g. Wallace 2005, Rohman 2008, Alt 2010, Scott 2012, Ryan and West 2015); nonetheless, much remains to be done in this area, especially (but not exclusively, of course) when it comes to non-Anglophone authors. This seminar aims to explore the non-anthropocentric stance of modernism in a global comparative perspective, and to encourage interdisciplinary dialogue on the subject.

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Citer ce billet
Honorine Tellier (2016, 23 septembre). AàC | Meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association | 23 sept. 2016. Animots. Consulté le 21 juin 2024, à l’adresse https://doi.org/10.58079/b6gw

Honorine Tellier

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