Chairperson: Michael Blouin, Michigan State University
The relationship between literature and nuclear issues has re-emerged continuously in contemporary thought. Theoretical questions surrounding the problem include: how to represent nuclear devastation, how to (or whether to) prevent nuclear proliferation, and the value of literary criticism within “real world” crises. The panel discussion will ideally encompass a variety of mediums (film, media, literature, journalism, etc.)
During a 1984 conference at Cornell University, theorists gathered to try and articulate the goals of “Nuclear Criticism”; famously, Jacques Derrida spoke out on the issue, linking literature to the very principles of atomic energy. Rather than a temporary fad, “Nuclear Criticism” has re-surfaced at various moments in theoretical circles of the last half-century. Given the recent events at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant in Japan, the ripple of anti-nuclear sentiment the event created, as well as the discursive maneuvers that took place in the aftermath, this is a unique moment to reflect on “Nuclear Criticism” and its place in the academy (and in society at-large).
Peter Schwenger’s book, Letter Bomb: Nuclear Holocaust and the Exploding Word (1992), offers a foundation on which to expand and develop the discussion of critical theory and nuclear development. What is the role of the humanities in times of heightened atomic anxiety? How has this changed over the past fifty years? The panel discussion should encompass a variety of mediums (film, media, literature, journalism, etc.) and will allow us to return to the vital question of where (or if) critical theory should play a part in the broader dialogues surrounding nuclear force in the 21st century.
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