Call for Papers: “Postwar Variations” at ACLA 2020

Dan Malinowksi and I are organizing a session, “Postwar Variations,” at the 2020 meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association in Chicago, IL, March 19-22, and invite the submission of abstracts through the ACLA portal. Here is the call for papers:

This seminar will take as its starting point the appeal of the injunction on Frank O’Hara’s tombstone to “live as variously as possible” for writers of the last seventy years. Variation enchants and exhausts. It points to difference, but difference contained recognizably within the bounds of a stable point or concept. Variation resists boredom, but it does so without necessarily extending (or losing) the connotations that mark other descriptions of difference: revolution, disruption, development, progress, etc. Variation, then, is an odd demand and one that can characterize aesthetic contexts as well as historical ones.

Variation takes many forms in postwar literature. From Bernadette Mayer’s sonnets to John Keene’s revisionist history, writers have shifted recognizable forms and histories into new forms for different aesthetic and political purposes during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Not limited to the avant-garde, variation has also been at home in mass culture during this period, evidenced by contemporary cultural formations such as the fourth remake of A Star is Born (2019) or the masses of fan fiction hosted on anarchiveofourown.org. In the tech world, Mark Zuckerberg’s now-infamous credo, “Move fast and break things,” has revealed itself to be a variation on an older form of capitalist accumulation rather than the radical change it originally purported to be. On a larger scale, Giovanni Arrighi’s work has demonstrated the periods of accumulation that structure capitalism vary in context if not form. In short, variation cuts in multiple directions and appears central to any understanding of the later twentieth century and its developments.

Given this, how is variation to be understood? What is the appeal of variation for writers from 1945 until today? How can variation be spotted? What does it mean to be “varied”? What does aesthetic variation do for our conceptions of aesthetic form, politics, or reception? How might we (continue to) theorize variation in the digital age? This seminar invites papers that variously engage with the topic of variation in post-1945 literary and cultural production.

Please submit 150-250 word abstracts with a brief bio through ACLA portal by September 23, 2019. Please contact Dan Malinowski at dan.malinowski@rutgers.edu or Bradley J. Fest at festb@hartwick.edu with any questions.

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