14 December 2015

Studying Southern Weirdness to Death

Travis Rozier and Bob Hodges have put out a call for papers on “The Weird & the Southern Imaginary,” with a deadline of January 18, 2016.

They state:
The Weird & the Southern Imaginary will introduce the aesthetics and generic conventions of the Weird to cultural studies of the U.S. South and the region’s local, hemispheric, and (inter)national connections. Contributions from literary critics, film and popular culture scholars, philosophers, and critical theorists will consider forms of the Weird in a range of texts (literature, art, film & television, comics, music) from, about, or resonant with conceptions of different South(s).
And in more detail:
S. T. Joshi periodizes Haute Weird Fiction from 1880 to 1940, and China Miéville describes how the paradigm of Haute Weird Fiction, especially in its foremost practitioner H. P. Lovecraft, invokes horror, alterity, and/or awe on a cosmic scale, which seeps into the mundane experiences of cognitively ill-equipped scientific or academic protagonists. The Weird aesthetic, especially pre-World War II, is often inextricable from revanchist horrors of democracy, political revolution, miscegenation, and female or other non-normative sexualities, although Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s recent Weird compendium stresses the “darkly democratic” aspect of a C20 and C21 Weird tradition that spans nations, genders, genres, and levels of literary status.

Representations of the U.S. South as an irrational or reactionary space draw on what Deborah Barker and Kathryn McKee describe as the southern imaginary, a fluid reservoir of topoi referencing an enduring material history of land appropriation, coercive labor practices, carceral landscapes, racial and commercial mixing, extralegal violence, and insular patriarchies. The Weird & the Southern Imaginary will explore Weird South(s) of national aberrance and cosmic otherness. For example, the first television season of True Detective melds the conservative politics and religious fervor often equated with the South to vaster hints of conspiratorial and cosmic horror in a postindustrial Louisiana swampscape.

The dark fantasy of the Weird diverges sharply from the usual monstrosities of horror and speculative fictions as well as many modes of southern representation: the gothic, the grotesque, the uncanny, the ghostly or hauntological, or the folkloric, modes with longstanding southern associations and almost as longstanding critical fatigue for Southernisits. The Weird can also bridge Southern Studies and its old associations with recent work in object-oriented ontology, ecotheory, other new materialisms, and nihilist philosophy as well as apocalyptic popular cultural fixations.
Possible topics include:
  • Weird South(s) in U.S. literature
  • International Weird Fiction & southern imaginary, subtly connected or not
  • Race & the southern imaginary in Weird Fiction
  • Political or cultural reaction & Weird South(s)
  • Weird carceral practices & the southern imaginary (Franz Kafka “In the Penal Colony”)
  • Environmental transformation or degradation & Weird South(s)
  • The nonhuman or posthuman in southern literature (Matthew Taylor)
  • Dark ecology (Timothy Morton) & southern landscapes, swampscapes, etc.
  • Nihilism, extinction, or the recalcitrance of the world (Eugene Thacker) & the South(s)
  • C19 South & proto-Weird Fiction (Ambrose Bierce, Charles Chesnutt, Edgar Allan Poe)
  • The Weird associations of the South & the Antarctic (Poe, Herman Melville, Lovecraft)
  • R. H. Barlow in Florida, his Weird Fiction, or his correspondence with Lovecraft
  • Robert E. Howard in Texas, his Weird Fiction, or his correspondence with Lovecraft
  • Weird Appalachia (Lovecraft, Manly Wade Hopkins’s Silver John stories, Fred Chappell)
  • Henry S. Whitehead’s Weird West Indian tales
  • Eudora Welty & Weird Fiction (Mitch Frye)
  • Weird Fiction, modernist literary strategies, & the South (William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston “Uncle Monday”, Flannery O’Connor)
  • The Weird in Latin American Boom fiction (Julio Cortázar, Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel García Márquez, Augusto Monterroso), its forbearers (Jorge Luis Borges), or its successors (Junot Díaz, Jamaica Kincaid)
  • Contemporary or New (South) Weird (Poppy Z. Brite, Moira Crone, Stephen Graham Jones, Caitlín Kiernan, Joe Lansdale, Joyce Carol Oates, Jeff VanderMeer)
  • Weird southern comics (Alan Moore et al. Saga of the Swamp Thing, Garth Ennis et al. Preacher)
The editors want essays in English, 5,000-8,000 words long. But the first step is to send them a 300-500 word abstract at the emails linked to their names above.

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