Contemporary American literature has rediscovered politics. As scholars who proclaim an end of postmodernism, a post-postmodern turn, maintain, literature around the turn of the millennium has broken with the 'narcissist' playfulness of postmodernism and demonstrates a rekindled interest in addressing issues of social concern, an interest that it pursues by literary strategies nonetheless deeply shaped by postmodern aesthetics.
This 'political turn' in literature coincides with what we may call a 'poetic turn' in politics. Political (sub-)cultures show themselves increasingly conscious of their own textuality, which shows, for example, in their strategic development and use of specific genres of political 'writing' (in old as well as new media); in the extent to which political texts draw on the means and techniques of literature; or in instances of textual self-reflexivity.
The conference "Poetics of Politics: Textuality and Social Relevance in Contemporary American Literature and Culture," held June 20-22, 2013 at Leipzig, brought together fifteen scholars and a large group of participants to discuss these developments. The conference was made possible by the generous support of The Consulate General of the United States of America, Leipzig, The Barbara Hobbie & Richard Mancke Fund, The Vereinigung von Förderern und Freunden der Universität Leipzig, and the Benefiz Kaffee- und Milchshakebar Shake and Donate.
Keynote I: Greta Olson
Panel I: Nonfiction
Poetics of Disaster: Generic Instability and the Upgrading of Imaginativeness in The 9/11 Commission Report
Sebastian M. Herrmann
Fog, Fact, Fiction: Narrative Blurring and Reality Effects in Larry Beinhart’s Fog Facts and The Librarian
Carolin Alice Hofmann
Political Unease in Testimonial Nonfiction: Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Dave Eggers’s Zeitoun
Keynote II: Ilka Saal
‘Just as good as the real thing’: Exploring Historiopoetics in Contemporary American Literature
Panel II: Narratives in Old Media
Examining the Glass and the Frame: Politics and Subjectivity in Rae Armantrout’s Poetry
Panel III: Narratives in New Media
‘A Man Chooses, a Slave Obeys’? Objectivism, Choice, and Narrative Agency in BioShock
Panel IV: Television
The Politics of Long-Form Storytelling in Contemporary American Serial Television: On Popular Seriality, Operational Aesthetics, and Audience Management
The Politics of Nostalgia: Gender Representation in Mad Men
Keynote III: Andrew Hoberek
Thinking Institutionally: Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, and the Politics of Contemporary Historical Films
Panel V: Drama on Stage and Screen
The Last Days of American Civilization: The Poetics of Righteous Violence in Bob Goldthwait’s Black Comedy God Bless America