Anti- and Neo-Realism in 20th Century Literature

Project of a Workshop for the AILC-Conference 2003 in Hong Kong

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Call for Papers

Since the end of Realism/Naturalism and the triumph of Symbolism the literatures and arts of Modernism followed an aesthetics and poetics of anti-realism. Of course, there were many counter-movements and diverse attempts to unite Symbolism and Naturalism (e.g. Joyce) but the official discourse of the larger part of the 20th century was clearly dominated by an aesthetics which decried »mimesis« and pleaded for »abstraction«, »expression«, »surrealism«, »experiment«, or even for a radical »linguistic turn« (or for »concrete art« respectively). More recently, structuralist and poststructuralist philosophers and their followers have likewise decreed a »crisis« (or even the sheer impossibility) of »representation«.

From the end of the 80s, however, one notes in literary texts (esp. in American, African, European and Asian novels) and in criticism (gender studies, new historicism, cultural studies) a new (renewed?) interest in realism, representation, social and cultural contexts and in »littérature engagée«.

The workshop will be open to all questions which concern this struggle between anti- and neo-realists which has been so crucial for the literatures and arts of the 20th century. Issues which may be considered include, but are not limited to:

1. An Archaeology of 20th Century Anti-Realism

  • prehistory: Romanticism, its aesthetics and poetics as a first phase of anti-realism
  • poetics and aesthetics of anti-realism in the »Isms« of Modernism, in the works of specific authors or representative texts or in specific genres
  • relation between literature and the arts; »abstract« painting as the prototype of modern art and literature
  • »abstraction« in modern culture and modern literature
  • alliances between »symbolism« and »naturalism«, »abstraction« and »representation«, »modernism« and »commitment«?
  • 2. The Ideology of Anti-Realism

  • anti-realism and anti-conventionalism; anti-realism and anti-scientism
  • consciousness and the »inner world« as »deeper« realities
  • the »linguistic turn«; the »textual turn«
  • new criticism and the autonomy of art
  • »differance«, intertextuality, and the »dance of signs«
  • poetics of the »other«
  • anti-realism and philosophical constructionism
  • anti-realism and the Western cultural tradition
  • literary anti-realism and the new media (photography, film)
  • gender aspects?
  • discussion of the great manifestoes of anti-realism
  • 3. Neo-Realistic Literature

  • realistic movements in literatures between the wars, during and after world war II
  • poetics and aesthetics of neo-realism in the 80s and after in the works of specific authors or representative texts or in specific genres
  • neo-realism and pop culture
  • 4. The Ideology of Neo-Realism

  • realism and the prosaic
  • neo-realism as anti-modernism
  • the renaissance of »littérature engagée«
  • poetics of the »marginalized«
  • the text as document within the framework of a sociological or anthropological approach
  • the role of representation in cultural and postcolonial studies
  • representation and social, racial, and historical conflicts
  • gender aspects?
  • 5. Alternatives and New Critical Concepts

  • borderline cases: the fantastic, allegories, fables, metaphors, faction, auto-fiction
  • a second reading of some critical concepts (central role of the metaphor and of intertextuality in approaches to the »fait littéraire« during the 80s)
  • reality as a cultural construction
  • virtual realities as »possible world»
  • the question of the context and critical methods (philology, hermeneutics, psychoanalysis, sociocriticism, deconstructionism, new historicism, cultural studies, gender studies)
  • Those who are interested in participating in the workshop should send a 100-word abstract to one of the organisers.

    Presentations can be given in English or French and should not exceed 20 minutes. The deadline for proposals is January 31, 2003.