The prominence of questions of cultural identity in postcolonial studies has prevented due attention to concerns of literary form and aesthetics. Genres like the novel have often been condemned as ultimately complicit with dominant Western enlightenment agendas and local forms of articulation have frequently deconstructed them or redefined their properties. While considering the politics of cultural production and the tensions involved, our main aim is to explore the faultlines of generic transformations and of the emergence of new genres. In which way have marginalized cultures been concerned with traditional forms like the epic or the novel, how has e.g. the postcolonial epic re-conceptualized the burden of traditional nation-founding myths or the postcolonial novel deconstructed implications of the history of (auto)biographical models and of enlightened individualism? Such questions have special urgency in the context of cultures with strong oral traditions. The conference will focus on the evolution of specific narrative techniques as part of an emerging postcolonial aesthetics.
Our main aim is to investigate the cultural and philosophical contextualization of narrative forms and to concentrate on the development of transgressive genres; readings of individual texts/films will be secondary. A delineation, however tentative, of elements of a postcolonial narrative aesthetics could also allow us to approach aspects of evaluative standards, which may come to rely, among other things, on the ruthlessness and representativeness of local formal innovations/articulations. The plurality of explanatory paradigms for postcolonial generic models – whether based upon e.g. mimicry, writing back, experimental heteroglossia, new fusions of (sub)genres, forms of orature or appropriations of what Laura Doyle has called the “freedom plot” – manifests a need to focus less on finite properties of texts than to be cognizant of processes of negotiation, translation and subversion. Trying to find a specifically postcolonial narratology also implicitly engages in questions of possible investments in a concept of “world literature”. Here we intend to return to some of the issues of our last conference on “Transnational Idea(l)s”.
The conference will, if successful, have a follow-up on performative genres. Short abstracts of presentations to be sent by October 30 to “email@example.com” or to:
Prof. Dr. Walter Göbel
Conveners: Prof. Renate Brosch, Prof. Walter Göbel, Dr. Saskia Schabio