Calls for Papers

Upcoming Special Issue

Ishiguro After the Nobel 

Guest Editors: Chris Holmes and Kelly M. Rich​
Deadline for Submissions: 5 January 2020

In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for Literature, Kazuo Ishiguro struck a note resonant with the critical apparatus that has followed him attentively since the publication of his first novel, A Pale View of Hills, in 1982: “If you’d come across me in the autumn of 1979, you might have had some difficulty placing me.” The issue of Ishiguro’s uncertain placement as a Japanese-British writer of novels of enigmatic affect and a withdrawn style has occupied critics and popular audiences as a point of entry into his work. Whether in the so-called Japanese novels of his early career, the quintessentially British manor novel, or the more recent experiments with genre fiction, Ishiguro’s novels have engaged the critical theories of his moment while refusing to ally themselves with any single methodology for reading. With a Nobel and Booker Prize in hand, Ishiguro would seem a canonized global Anglophone writer, a part of the putative world of world literature, recognizable and locatable in a lineage of writers embraced by theories of the contemporary novel. And yet the novels appear structured precisely to resist worldliness as a concept, relegating their characters to states of nonknowing, where physical and epistemological claustrophobia reign. Butlers and painters do not understand their complicity in political violence, detectives and knights find clues illegible, and schoolchildren learn nothing of the institutions that educate them. If our attraction to his work can be explained in part by its refusals, what does it mean to call Ishiguro our contemporary?

Given the new urgency to reevaluate Ishiguro after his winning the Nobel Prize, this special issue seeks essays that contend with Ishiguro’s current literary legacy as well as expand an understanding of how his work has changed our study of the novel and its institutions. Possible questions for consideration include the following: What can be said about Ishiguro’s novelistic trajectory, regarding its phases, development, and reinventions? What is Ishiguro’s relationship with the conventions of genre and genre fiction, and does the popularity of his novels disprove certain assumptions about the novel’s decline? What do we make of Ishiguro’s work beyond the novel form, such as his short story collection, screenwriting projects, and the film adaptations of Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go? How do contemporary theories speak to his oeuvre, including affect theory, sociology of literature, neoliberalism, human rights theory, and the Anthropocene? Is Ishiguro postcolonial, and what relationship does his work have to the history and politics of that term? Relatedly, how does his writing and its attendant critical apparatus confirm or complicate paradigms for world literature and global modernism? And finally, how has the economy of prestige after the Nobel shifted Ishiguro’s place in the literary order of things?

Essays should be 7,000-9,000 words, including all quotations and bibliographic references, and should follow the MLA Handbook (8th edition) for internal citation and Works Cited. Please submit your essay via the online submission form at the following web address: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/mfs.

Queries should be directed to Chris Holmes (cholmes@ithaca.edu) and Kelly M. Rich (rich@fas.harvard.edu).

Upcoming Special Issue

Anglophone Literature, Its Critics, and the Left  

Guest Editor: Peter Kalliney, University of Kentucky
Deadline for Submissions: 1 July 2020

The relationship between the political left, global literature in English, and its criticism has been fractious throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In “Writers and Leviathan,” George Orwell argues that writers should never lend their talents to political causes. A few years later, Doris Lessing writes in “The Small Personal Voice” that writers of fiction must cultivate an inner aesthetic conscience that recognizes how truth always seem to crisscross ideological lines. A few decades on, Salman Rushdie, who viciously satirized Margaret Thatcher in The Satanic Verses, revised his stance, quipping, “I think better of the Tories for this trivial reason: They saved my life.” Writers with progressive politics in one context are prone to complication, equivocation, retraction, and revision as circumstances change.

Critics, like writers of fiction, are rarely in agreement about how literary criticism might serve the left. The questions have changed over time as feminist and socialist approaches to writing have confronted coalitional politics of the new social movements: anticolonialism, antinuclearism, antiracism, environmentalism, LBGTQ concerns, and animal rights gradually became mainstream progressive causes. In literary studies, many of the most influential methodological approaches of the second half of the twentieth century—cultural studies, feminism, queer studies, psychoanalysis, structuralism and especially poststructuralism, New Historicism, several variants of Marxism, and postcolonialism—all had significant investments in what might be conceived, broadly, as a politics of the left.

The tenor of these critical debates has shifted in the last two decades or so. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick was among the first to call for change by asking for “reparative” against “paranoid” reading. In Empire, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri argue that global capitalism has outflanked progressive strategies of representation. A few years later, Bruno Latour also noted this shift in a somewhat different register in “Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern,” in which he wonders if critiques of Enlightenment principles of scientific reason make sense now. Variants of these positions are now fairly widespread among progressive critics of literature. Amanda Anderson, Lauren Berlant, Rita Felski, Bruce Robbins, and Sharon Marcus and Stephen Best are among the prominent voices who argue that progressive literary critics have been slow to refashion their methods to meet the challenges of a new century. If liberalism is best when it is bleak, if optimism survives because it is cruel, or if reading is most nimble when it works along the seams of textual surfaces instead of picking them apart, then what is there to be rescued from the scrapheap of critical methods once associated with the left?

This special issue asks contributors to consider the relationship among texts, critics, and progressive politics. Does it make sense any longer to ask if anglophone writers are allied with, neutral toward, or skeptical of a politics of the left, as I do earlier in this call for papers? What does the history of twentieth-century fiction teach us about the development of literature at the present time? Are there political problems that fiction understands particularly well or others that it is prone to misrepresent? How do texts represent newer political debates, such as environmental activism and the rights of migrants, alongside more established causes, such as class redress, gender parity, and racial equity? Should progressive critics read fiction with or against the grain?

Essays should be 7,000-9,000 words, including all quotations and bibliographic references, and should follow the MLA Handbook (8th edition) for internal citation and Works Cited. Please submit your essay via the online submission form at the following web address: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/mfs.

Queries should be directed to Peter Kalliney (pjkall2@uky.edu).