This year’s Fulbright Prize in American Studies has been awarded to Dr. Marijana Mikić for her dissertation, entitled “Race, Space, and Emotion in Twenty-First-Century African American Literature,” which she developed during her time as PhD Researcher on the Narrative Encounters Project and completed in the English Department at the University of Klagenfurt in 2022. The dissertation combines insights from cognitive affective research, narrative theory, African American studies, and Black geographies to examine how African American storyworlds interrogate emotions as varied as fear, hope, shame, guilt, anger, and grief as bound up with racial ideologies and the geographic enforcement of these ideologies. Congratulations Marijana!
The Fulbright Prize in American Studies is based on an annual competition managed by the AAAS. It is a means of acknowledging the enduring importance of American studies and the role of innovative research by young academics in Austria in contributing to the fulfillment of the Fulbright Program’s mandate to promote mutual understanding between the peoples of Austria and the United States of America. The purpose of this award is to recognize superior academic achievement in the field of American studies (Amerikanistik) in the broadest sense of the word and hence includes all relevant ancillary disciplines and departments at Austrian universities.
Marijana Mikić has been awarded a Post-DocTrack Fellowship by the Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW). During the time of the fellowship, she will be working on her first monograph, based on her dissertation, “Race, Space, and Emotion in Twenty-First-Century African American Literature.”
The planned book project draws on and brings together insights from cognitive research on emotion, narrative theory, African American studies, and Black geographies to investigate the ways in which twenty-first-century African American storyworlds interrogate emotions as varied as fear, hope, shame, guilt, anger, and grief. Delving into the various formal means and narrative strategies that novels by Toni Morrison, Colson Whitehead, Percival Everett, N.K. Jemisin, Edward P. Jones, Brit Bennett, Maurice Carlos Ruffin, and Sherri L. Smith use to support their thematic interrogation of individual emotions as closely linked the social production of race and space, it argues that there is much we can learn about “emotions in context” from African American narrative.
Following the central goal of the Narrative Encounters project, the planned monograph seeks to illuminate the ways in which literary texts that grapple with questions of race, ethnicity, and identity force us to pay more attention to the social and systemic forces that produce emotions, while they also bring into focus the decidedly collective ways in which minoritized individuals and communities understand, grapple with, and address emotions.
Omar El Akkad’s American War (2017) presents a dark vision of what the United States might devolve into if climate change, haphazard adaptation, and the political polarisation of the country continue unchecked. Analysing the four overarching facets of trace—visibility, materiality, environment, and human interaction—on the level of the novel’s narrative composition, the article argues that El Akkad offers more than just a cognitively estranged story about the making of a future American terrorist. Foregrounding the complex relationship between its central protagonist’s personal losses and the bitter war she fights in a climate-changed environment, American War deliberately employs what El Akkad has called “weaponized empathy” to allow readers to understand on a visceral level what drives people’s thoughts and actions once they have been robbed of the things and people they care for and embody the traces of what has been lost.
In her 1997 essay “Home,” Toni Morrison poses several fundamental questions that guide her literary work: “How to be both free and situated; how to convert a racist house into a race-specific yet nonracist home. How to enunciate race while depriving it of its lethal cling? ” (5) . These questions are integral to Morrison’s own work, but she also entreats other authors to respond to them; a substantial number, including Brit Bennett, Bryan Washington, Kaitlyn Greenidge, and Akwaeke Emezi, have done so. Like Morrison, these younger authors construct storyworlds that both depict and challenge the use of such social emotions as guilt and shame in constituting and perpetuating the arbitrary in- and out-group divisions that are fundamental to racial and spatial forms of constraint. In doing so, they show how resisting oppression provides Black characters, especially Black women, with important possibilities for community-building/home-creation.
Alexa Weik von Mossner has published a book chapter, entitled “Nourishment for the Mind: Narrating Indian Food as Cultural Memory,” in Memory: From the Sciences to the Humanities, edited by Donald Wehrs, Suzanne Nalbantian and Don Tucker (Routledge 2023).
The chapter explores how the complex relationships between food, memory, and culture are represented and evoked in ethnic American cultural texts. Memories of food are more than just personal recollections of a particular dish – they are both intensely personal and embedded in larger collective memories, dietary traditions, and culinary practices. They also play an important role in identity formation and sustain social and cultural worlds, not only in the place in which they were formed but also in diasporic communities far away from that place of origin. This is particularly obvious in a country like the United States with its long history of immigration. For successive waves of immigrants, the dishes they consumed and cherished became a means of negotiating the degree of their assimilation to mainstream U.S. culture, on the one hand, and a means to hold on to their cultural roots, on the other.
The chapter considers a conjunction of literature and film – among them Shoba Narayan’s Monsoon Diary: a Memoir with Recipes, Jumpha Lahiri’s short story “Mrs. Sen’s,” Jason Zeldes’s Ugly Delicious episode “Don’t Call It Curry,” and David Kaplan’s feature film Today’s Special – that represent and remember the culinary traditions of India and, by extension, those of Indian Americans. Making connections between empirical-scientific and historical-interpretative levels of analysis, the chapter demonstrates that narrated food memories, along with the sensual evocation of the remembered dishes and their preparation, play an important role in how writers and filmmakers invite their audiences to appreciate and/or celebrate the food and cultural identity of an ethnic minority group. Whether it is the visceral evocation of specific dishes and/or their preparation that is foregrounded, or characters’ personal relationship to them (or both), such acts of narrativization always comment to some degree on issues of identity and U.S. racial politics.
Wednesday, October 12, 2022 at 12:45 in HS4 at the University of Klagenfurt, presented by the Narrative Encounters Project
Studying literatures from outside one’s own cultural/national/linguistic/ethnic background requires navigating through an interpretive Scylla and Charybdis. One extreme creates overly touristic readings that merely “honor” or “sample” local variations without also seeking to understand how and why they matter to a text’s reception outside its originating culture; the other assigns value to a work exclusively on the basis of its potential to transcend spatial and temporal borders. The narrow path between these two options involves remaining receptive to the unfamiliar without prejudging it – either positively or negatively – because of its alterity. Every scholar can bring his or her personal experiences and values to bear productively on a text provided that those experiences do not impart rigid expectations about what kind of literature is worthy of consideration.
Derek C. Mausis Professor of English and Communication at the State University of New York at Potsdam, where he teaches numerous courses on contemporary literature from all over the world. He has published numerous books and articles, most of which have focused on the subject of satire. His full CV, samples of his work, and other scholarly information can be found at https://potsdam.academia.edu/DerekCMaus.
Wednesday, October 12, 2022 at 12:00 in HS4 at the University of Klagenfurt, presented by the Narrative Encounters Project
North American scholars have recently begun talking about „decolonizing“ academic fields of study, many of which have historically contributed to the larger continuing project of the colonization of Indigenous peoples. Following some key principles drawn from Indigenous pedagogies, this lecture will offer suggestions for ways we might begin to „decolonize“ the teaching of American literature. What books and courses do we teach? What work do we ask our students to complete? Why should we teach this material at all? By attending to these questions with practices derived from Indigenous pedagogies, perhaps we can begin to better understand and challenge the underlying colonizing mindset that has informed much of the history of this field of study.
James J. Donahueis Professor in English and Communication at SUNY Potsdam (USA), where he holds a secondary appointment in Interdisciplinary Studies as coordinator of the minor in Native American Studies. He is primarily interested in exploring the complex literary and cultural tensions of twentieth century America and is the author of Contemporary Native Fiction: Toward a Narrative Poetics of Survivance (Routledge 2019) and co-editor of Narrative, Race, and Ethnicity in the United States (OSU Press 2017).
Edited by Alexa Weik von Mossner, Marijana Mikić, and Mario Grill, Ethnic American Literatures and Critical Race Narratology explores the relationship between narrative, race, and ethnicity in the United States. Situated at the intersection of post-classical narratology and context-oriented approaches in race, ethnic, and cultural studies, the contributions to this edited volume interrogate the complex and varied ways in which ethnic American authors use narrative form to engage readers in issues related to race and ethnicity, along with other important identity markers such as class, religion, gender, and sexuality. Importantly, the book also explores how paying attention to the formal features of ethnic American literatures changes our under-standing of narrative theory and how narrative theories can help us to think about author functions and race. The international and diverse group of contributors includes top scholars in narrative theory and in race and ethnic studies, and the texts they analyze concern a wide variety of topics, from the representation of time and space to the narration of trauma and other deeply emotional memories to the importance of literary paratexts, genre structures, and author functions.
Foreword: Ethnoracial Encounters: From Myopic to Polyscopic Planetary Narratologies — Frederick Luis Aldama
Introduction: Narrative Encounters with Ethnic American Literatures — Alexa Weik von Mossner
PART 1: Narrating Race and Ethnicity across Time and Space
Indigenous Time / Indigenous Narratives: The Political Implications of Non-Linear Time in Contemporary Native Fiction — James J. Donahue
Time(s) of Race: Narrative Temporalities, Epistemic Storytelling, and the Human Species in Ted Chiang — Matthias Klestil
Polychronic Narration, Trauma, Disenfranchised Grief, and Mario Alberto Zambrano’s Lotería — Mario Grill
Whole New Worlds: An Exploration of Narrative Strategies Used in Afrodiasporic Speculative Fiction — Marlene Allen Ahmed
PART 2: Haunting Memories: Narrative, Race, and Emotion
Emotions that Haunt: Attachment Relations in Lan Samantha Chang’s Fiction — W. Michelle Wang
Race, Trauma, and the Emotional Legacies of Slavery in Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing — Marijana Mikić
“There Were Strands of Darker Stories”: Reading Third-Generation Holocaust Literature as Midrash — Stella Setka
Stories, Love, and Baklava: Narrating Food in Diana Abu-Jaber’s Culinary Memoirs — Alexa Weik von Mossner
PART 3: Race, Ethnicity, and Paratexts: Genre Structures and Author Functions
Healing Narratives: Historical Representations in Latinx Young Adult Literature — Elizabeth Garcia
Blood and Soil: Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony — Patrick Colm Hogan
Metaparatextual Satire in Percival Everett’s The Book of Training and Kent Monkman’s Shame and Prejudice — Derek Maus
Author Functions, Literary Functions, and Racial Representations or What We Talk about When We Talk about Diversifying Narrative Studies — Jennifer Ho
The book is part of Routledge’s Narrative Theory and Culture series, edited by Christopher González, and is available here.
George S. Schuyler’s Black No More (1931) invites readers to embark on a journey to an alternative future world in which scientific progress promises to eliminate race. The utopian premise of a Black-free world, however, only sets the scene for Schuyler’s deeply satirical Afrofuturist imagination. The essay argues that we come to understand the novel’s critique of race as a signifier of difference through the presence of racialized emotions in the lives of virtually all of the novel’s characters. The critical and satirical gaze of Schuyler’s omniscient narrator alerts readers to the fact that there is no such thing as race, but that a racialized environment—even in the absence of skin color differences—inevitably shapes characters’ individual emotions. Not only does Black No More invite readers to understand feelings of fear, anxiety, hope, anger, shame, and disgust as shaped by processes of racialization, but it also depicts these emotions as constitutive of race and racism.