[Msa-discuss] CFP for MSA 18 Modernism and the Origin and Rise of Biofiction

Michael Lackey lacke010 at morris.umn.edu
Sat Feb 6 07:53:06 EST 2016


CFP for an MSA 18 Panel on the topic of

Modernism and the Origin and Rise of Biofiction

MSA 18: November 17-20 in Pasadena, CA

250-Word Abstracts due March 20th

Send cv and abstracts to Michael Lackey (lacke010 at morris.umn.edu)



                In 1937, Georg Lukács published *The Historical Novel*, a
landmark study that examines the nature and power of the literary form.  But
he also discusses the biographical novel, which is a form of fiction that
names its protagonist after an actual historical figure.  Many biographical
novels were published in the 1930s by notable writers like Thomas and
Heinrich Mann, Robert Graves, Arna Bontemps, Lion Feuchtwanger, Irving
Stone, and Zora Neale Hurston.  But Lukács condemned the form as
irredeemable.

                I am seeking submissions for a panel about the role
modernism played in the rise and legitimization of biofiction.  For
instance, modernist theories of knowledge led some writers to author
biblical biographical novels that challenged and debunked ideas in and
approaches to the Bible.  Thomas Mann and Zora Neale Hurston wrote
biographical novels about Joseph, Moses, and Herod.  Specifically which
theories of knowledge led Mann and Hurston to write biographical novels
about biblical figures?  How do modernist theories of knowledge impact the
characterizations of the biblical figures in the novels?  How do the
modernist theories of knowledge, as dramatized in the novels, force readers
to rework their understanding of and approach to the Bible?  How have
Mann’s and Hurston’s works contributed to the rise of the contemporary
biblical biographical novels of Frederick Buechner, Anita Diamant, David
Maine, Colm Tóibín and Geraldine Brooks, to mention only a notable few?

                A more theoretical question is: to what degree did
distinctly modernist ideas contribute to the making of the biographical
novel?  According to Lukács, the hero of a historical novel should be a
fictional figure that functions as a historical-social type.  Thus, he
condemns the biographical novel, because its protagonist is based on an
actual historical figure.  Is Lukács right to condemn the biographical
novel? If not, why not?  Lukács believes that the successful historical
novel should give readers the objective proportions and weights of history.
To what degree and in what sense does the biographical novel refute core
ideas at the center of Lukács’ work about historical fiction by centering
the novel in the consciousness of a biographical subject?  What kind of
history do readers get from biofiction?  And what kind of biographical
subject do readers get from biofiction?

                Modernist writers did much to challenge and deconstruct
traditional versions of subjectivity, especially those based on strict
binaries.  How have modernist theories of the subject contributed to the
formation and valorization of biofiction?  And, is it a coincidence that so
many contemporary biographical novels have been written about famous or
important modernists, including Leo Tolstoy, Friedrich Nietzsche, Oscar
Wilde, Henry James, Egon Schiele, Virginia Woolf, Rainer Maria Rilke,
Gertrude Stein, Katherine Mansfield, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Robert Frost,
Ernest Hemingway, Zelda Fitzgerald, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Einar Wegener/Lili
Elbe, Sergey Nabakov, Frid Kahlo, and Walter Benjamin, just to mention only
a notable few?

                As you can see, the questions are endless.  For those
interested in this panel, send a cv and a 250-word abstract to Michael
Lackey (lacke010 at morris.umn.edu) by March 20th.
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