Rethinking the “derangement”: Panel for ACLA 2020

Deadline: 23 September 2019
Contact: Modhumita Roy, Tufts University

Rethinking the “derangement”: Urban Environments, Ecological Crisis, and Contemporary Fiction; proposed panel for The American Comparative Literature Association’s 2020 Annual Meeting

“Let us make no mistake,” writes Amitav Ghosh in The Great Derangement and the Unthinkable, “the climate crisis is also a crisis of culture, and thus of the imagination.” While Ghosh doubts that the novel—especially the realist novel—can rise to the challenge of the current crisis, this seminar invites explorations of instances of the novel’s adaptability– its ability to record and respond to environmental catastrophe. We ask: how have ecological and environmental disasters been conceptualized, represented, engaged in contemporary novels? What forms have these explorations taken? The seminar is particularly interested in urban and built environments as exemplary loci for investigating environmental and climate crises. How are the crises linked to humanly created environments past, present, and future? How successful are these texts in excavating the systemic and deliberate arrangements—spatial, social, political, and economic—that have brought us to this moment of impending calamity? What, if any, are the signs of resistance and rejuvenation? What are the complexities and pitfalls of imagining futures (utopian or dystopic)? How do texts that focus on urban and built environments (real or imagined) complicate Ghosh’s claim of “derangement”? What is/are the “unthinkable” in these texts?

We wish to engage these questions via the exploration of a wide range of textual forms, including speculative and science fiction, petro- and detective fictions, among others. We are especially interested in taking up the question of the effectiveness and viability of realist fiction in the current conjuncture.

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Posted on September 3, 2019