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Contemporary Drift: Genre, Historicism, and the Problem of the Present
October 12, 2015 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
UW System Fellow (2015-2016)
What do we mean when we call something—art, culture, history—”contemporary”? While scholars tend to refer to the contemporary as if it were the name for a clearly demarcated historical period, the contemporary isn’t really like other historical periods—for the simple reason that, as something ongoing and open-ended, it is not yet historical. This talk considers how the not-quite-historical category of the contemporary first emerged as a framework for literary studies in the mid-twentieth century, and how it has challenged some of the basic methodological assumptions of the discipline in ways that are still being reckoned with today. What would it mean, I ask, to think of the contemporary not as a stable period but as a conceptual problem? And what it would mean to see certain forms of contemporary fiction as a vital resource for resolving that problem?
Theodore Martin is Assistant Professor of English at the UW-Milwaukee. He specializes in post-1945 American and British fiction. His work has appeared in Modern Language Quarterly and Novel: A Forum on Fiction, and is forthcoming in the edited volume Postmodern/Postwar and After (University of Iowa Press). He is currently finishing a book titled “Contemporary Drift: Genre and the Forms of the Present.” He is also writing the entry on “Temporality” for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature.