2009 Conference: September 11-13, Harvard University
At least since Aristotle, categories of genre have organized the analysis and evaluation of literature. While it is impossible to imagine a literary criticism that does not use generic categories, we no longer have a shared understanding of “genre.” How do genres come into being, and what distinguishes one from another? What do considerations of genre occlude, as well as reveal? What kinds of generic categories might be useful for critical analysis today? This conference will explore the ways in which genres currently do and do not work in practice and in theory.
Jonathan Culler is Class of 1916 professor of English and comparative literature at Cornell University. His Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism, Linguistics, and the Study of Literature won the MLA’s Lowell Prize in 1975 and established his reputation as analyst and expositor of critical theory. Now known especially for On Deconstruction and Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction (which has been translated into some 20 languages), he is working on Baudelaire and on a book entitled Theory of the Lyric.
Wai Chee Dimock
“Migration Across Genres”
Wai Chee Dimock is William Lampson professor of English and American studies at Yale University. Her recent publications include Through Other Continents: American Literature Across Deep Time; a collection of essays, Shades of the Planet: American Literature as World Literature (coedited with Lawrence Buell); and a special issue of PMLA, “Remapping Genre” (co-edited with Bruce Robbins).
“The Generosity of Kindness”
Craig Dworkin is the author of Reading the Illegible and the editor of three volumes of essays: Architectures of Poetry; Language to Cover a Page; and The Consequence of Innovation: 21st Century Poetics. He edits Eclipse, a free on-line archive focusing on digital facsimiles of the most radical small-press writing from the last quarter century. He is an associate professor in the Department of English at the University of Utah.
“The Shandean Lifetime Reading Plan”
Deidre Lynch is Chancellor Jackman professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of English of the University of Toronto. Her books include the prize-winning The Economy of Character: Novels, Market Culture, and the Business of Inner Meaning and (as editor) Janeites: Austen’s Disciples and Devotees. She is currently completing a book entitled At Home in English: A Cultural History of the Love of Literature.
Martin Puchner holds the H. Gordon Garbedian chair in English and comparative literature at Columbia University where he also directs the PhD program in the Theatre Division. He is the author of Stage Fright: Modernism, Anti-Theatricality, and Drama and Poetry of the Revolution: Marx, Manifestos, and the Avant-Gardes (winner of the MLA’s James Russell Lowell Award for 2006). He is the co-editor of Against Theatre: Creative Destructions on the Modernist Stage and the forthcoming Norton Anthology of Drama, as well as the new general editor of the upcoming Norton Anthology of World Literature, 3e.
“Form and Informality”
Joseph Slaughter is associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. He studies and teaches African, Caribbean, and Latin American literatures, postcolonialism, critical theory, and human rights. His book,Human Rights, Inc.: The World Novel, Narrative Form, and International Law (awarded the 2008 René Wellek prize for comparative literary and cultural theory by the American Comparative Literature Association), examines the social, political, and formal intersections of literary and legal fictions of human development. He is currently working on a study called “New Word Orders” that looks at the role of plagiarism and other piratical practices in the long history of literary and economic globalization.
Alex Woloch is as associate professor in English at Stanford University. He works on literary and narrative theory, nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century literature, and the history of the novel. He is the author of The One vs the Many: Minor Characters and the Space of the Protagonist in the Novel and the co-editor of Whose Freud: The Place of Psychoanalysis in Contemporary Culture. He is currently directing Stanford’s Center for the Study of the Novel.