Seminar on Popular fiction
Improbable plots? Making sense of contemporary popular fiction
4-6 March 2010
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The notion of popular fiction calls forth several associations which highlight its distinction from “serious” or “high” literature. It is seen as one form of popular or mass culture that emerged with the rise of industrial capitalism, the mass media and the mass culture industry and as therefore indubitably encompassing the process of production, mass marketing and mass reception. The textual strategies deployed in works of popular fiction, the generic forms, formulaic plots, stereotyped characters and clichéd language, beg the question about their function in the social, political and economic milieu within which they participate in powerful ideologies and discourses as they successfully reach out to stir the hearts and fire the desires of millions of readers.
The shifting trajectories of popularity of individual works, or rather of authors, and the transmutation of genres underscore their connection to the concerns of the specific historical period. From adventure in primitive or exotic landscapes to encounters with alien, technologised universes in outer space, from the civilisational horrors of colonial and imperialist wars to the apocalyptic terrors of planetary ones, from tear-jerking romance in the security of the monogamous family to erotic transgressions of family ties and sexual norms, from the perilous mysteries of burgeoning cities to the global sites of espionage and organized crime, from the gothic worlds of witchcraft and sorcery to the dark fantasies of the digital age, the imagined worlds of popular fiction seem to set themselves off from and simultaneously point a finger at the everyday realities of its readers.
What are the driving forces of such texts and their readers in today’s globalised world? How do they relate to other popular cultural forms, such as film, music, the emergent forms of digital entertainment? The conference aims at bringing together interdisciplinary and comparative perspectives that turn the spotlight on contemporary popular fiction in order to explore its preferred genres and modes of engagement with the preoccupations and predicaments of the current age.
[Deadline for submission of abstracts (200-300 words): 15 December 2009]
This is a call for papers for a conference being organised by the Department in March 2009. The conference is planned as a concluding event to the year long course on the theme “Popular Fiction” offered to M.A. and M.Phil students. A conceptual outline for the conference is given below.
Please send the title and a brief abstract (200-300 words) of your proposed paper by 15 December 2009. Each paper will be allotted 20 minutes for presentation. Given the shortage of resources, the Department is unable to offer travel fare. However, we would provide local hospitality in the University Guesthouse for outstation participants. A selection of papers of the conference will be subsequently published.