American Literature: Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Myth
Call for Papers Date:
From revolutions in communications technology and transportation to encounters with space travelers and aliens, from leaps in human evolution to new dimensions of existence, from creation stories of the past to speculations about the future, science fiction, fantasy, and myth have variously captured the human imagination, making the familiar strange and the strange inevitable. From the vantage point of the twenty-first century, it is fascinating to watch the rapid innovations in science and technology overtake their fictional anticipation and to return to our most speculative and fantastical literature to see how perceptively it anticipated the social and geopolitical transformations—and challenges—these innovations would inspire. We can, moreover, recognize in these fictions a prolonged engagement not only with the transient social anxieties of their individual moments, but also with the timeless drama of human contact with the divine, the transcendent, the otherworldly, and the sublime.
This special issue brings together these genres, with their divergent but intersecting histories, and asks why they might be particularly relevant to the contemporary moment. While science fiction has garnered increasing attention in recent years in the academy (and increasing recognition in mainstream publications), the status of fantasy is more controversial—and the line between the two is itself a subject of debate. Myth, by contrast, has long been a source of scholarly fascination, although the term typically emerges in the study of American literature in its pejorative sense. Yet myth plays a seminal role in the other two genres, so much so that science fiction and fantasy can arguably exceed the category of genre to contribute to what William Burroughs calls “a new mythology for the space age.” The issue seeks to move past the definitional debates—beyond, for example, determining the distinction between science fiction and fantasy or the precise definition of myth—to explore broadly the relationship of these genres and modes (individually or in combination) to American literatures and cultures. How, for example, might a focus on science fiction, fantasy, and myth change our understanding of literary history? Of literary engagements with scientific and technological innovations as well as with the most pressing political concerns of the moment? How might we use these literary forms to understand genre as a historical repository? The role of mythology in modern culture? What social and geopolitical conditions might produce a genre or mode—or perhaps a critical category—that newly classifies certain literary conventions as genres? What themes or questions surface when we read more canonical works through the lens of science fiction, fantasy, or myth? Conversely, what happens to these categories when we take seriously, as scholars such as H. Bruce Franklin have done, their early appearance in American literary history? This issue will explore the insights that emerge when we consider the various imaginative engagements that characterize science fiction, fantasy, and myth as central concerns of American literary history and cultural production.
Special issue editors: Priscilla Wald and Gerry Canavan. Submissions of 11,000 words or less (including endnotes) should be submitted electronically at www.editorialmanager.com/al/ by 31 May 2010. When choosing a submission type, select “New Submission-Special Issue.”
For assistance with the submission process, please contact the office of American Literature at (919) 684–3948 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please direct other questions to Priscilla Wald (email@example.com) or Gerry Canavan (firstname.lastname@example.org). Email: email@example.com Visit the website at http://www.dukeupress.edu/americanliterature/
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