Past Paradigms in Twenty-First Century Literatures in English
Coordinator: Inge Birgitte Siegumfeldt
Departing from both literary theory and praxis, this project addresses questions concerning the current status of Anglophone literatures and the direction(s) they seem to be taking in the twenty-first century. As they evidently flow across boundaries, traditionally erected, between the postmodern, the postcolonial, the national and the regional and undo conventional constructions of ethnicity, race, class, sexuality and gender, a measure of unpredictability is inevitably instilled with regard to literary technique and readerly expectations, and so, it is our claim that literary criticism must acknowledge a growing need for new approaches in theory and analysis.
Jeffrey Nealon, for example, describes what Brian McHale calls ‘post-postmodern’ literature as ‘an intensification and mutation of features already present’ within postmodern and postcolonial literatures and points to new directions that are ‘…mutated, passed beyond a certain tipping point to become something recognizably different in its contours and workings’ (Nealon, 2015: 177). Supplementing such insights, Mary K. Holland comments on a literary strategy that ‘not only returns us to presence and the real, after decades of literature's obsession with the void, but also to remind us of the powerful ways in which acts of reading and writing impact the real world’ (Holland, 2013: 7). Similarly, in our most recent research projects, In Search of the Afropolitan (2016, Eva and Ulla) and … en verden i ord (2016, Inge Birgitte), we have also noted the tendencies in twenty-first century literatures in English to transgress, intensify and mutate. The aim of Past Paradigms is thus to further explore these literary re-orientations in two major research projects (listed below). Colleagues with similar research interests will be warmly welcome to join the group.
We are in the process of developing two concrete research projects under the heading of “Past Paradigms”:
- “Same and Other: The Composition of Character in Twenty-First Century American Literature” (Inge Birgitte).
This project focusses on American re-writings of the ’grand narrative’ which turn on bildung – but with a twist. It will explore new forms of the interplay between inner and outer landscapes where deconstructive key concepts such as ambiguity and dislocation are employed to new effects in both form and content. A special emphasis will be placed on questions concerning the significance of the fact that now, past the paradigms of New Criticism and Poststructuralism, the authorial figure is involved as a subjective agent in the unfolding of the text on a par with the reader, language, convention, culture and context.
- “Refugee Stories: Suspended Realities and Temporalities in Early Twenty-First Century Narratives of Movement” (Eva and Ulla).
2016 saw the publication of a series of refugee stories in the wake the so-called refugee crisis. Refugee stories (autobiographical stories as well as emerging literary narratives) can be seen as an urgent reaction to the dehumanising refugees experience as a result of being perceived as faceless, non-individualised people who cross borders yet never really seem to arrive. Such contemporary refugee experiences upset traditional migrant literatures’ discourses and ontologies. Contemporary refugees find themselves in a porous and unspecified limbo where their experience of causality and temporality is suspended. Thus, refugee stories evidence a need for humanising, individualising and naming people on the run. Since the refugee’s voice is subtly different from the migrant’s voice, readers and critics are met with new ethical and critical challenges. Our point of departure is the realisation that early twenty-first century refugee literature demands a revitalisation of Frantz Fanon’s postcolonial ideas about a ‘new humanism’ in a world which, in a post-postcolonial (global) sense, has to be understood in new and different ways.
The aim is to examine the current re-direction of literatures in English – past paradigms – with a view to developing a framework of critical approaches that encompass and/or operate on the basis of the (different kind of) difference, ambiguity, and plurality which would seem to inform the literary texts in question. In other words, we need a new critical and theoretical set of perspectives that may draw on the post-colonial and post-modern modes of thought, reading and writing – but which moves beyond them. It is the aim of this group to contribute to the development of such a critical and theoretical framework.
Examples of key publications
- a collection of essays of critical readings entitled “Past Paradigms”
- a monograph on (Anglophone) Refugee Stories (Eva and Ulla)
- a comparative theoretical study (article, essay, book chapter etc.) of movement and access in migrant and refugee literary writing (Eva and Ulla)
- a monograph on the ‘post-postmodern’ novel (IBS)
- a study (article, essay, book chapter etc.) of the return of the A/author in Jewish-American writing (IBS)
Examples of outreach activities and impact
We teach double module MA courses which (partly) turn on the themes and questions addressed in the work of “Past Paradigms”:
F18 - ’Narrative: Theory and Practice’ and ’Cultural Encounters in Local and Global Context’
F19 – ‘(Beyond) Post-Colonial and Post-Modern Literatures in English’
We will arrange a series of workshops with invited PhD students and scholars working in the area and put together a volume of collected essays on ‘Literature and Culture Past Paradigms.’
Time and money! In terms of financing, this is a fairly low-budget project and there is a good chance that we can get the necessary funding (netværks-penge, workshop, conference) from the HUM PhD-School, Carlsberg and Augustinus Fonden.
It will be more of a challenge to find sufficient time for research, publication, PhD nursing, conference arrangements and indeed funding applications.
- Apply for ‘netværks penge’ to be able to expand the group of scholars working within ‘Past Paradigms’
- Set up a study group for work-in-progress with senior scholars and PhD students
- Arrange an international conference on the topic of ‘Past Paradigms’
- Publication of at least two monographs and a collection of critical essays (see above)
- ‘Formidling’ in whichever form it may take: giving talks and interviews (when asked)
|Knudsen, Eva Rask||Associate professor||+45 353-28584|
|Rahbek, Ulla||Associate professor||+45 353-29280|
|Siegumfeldt, Inge Birgitte||Associate professor||+45 40 23 85 88|