ANDA SEMINAR 2018. Transcending the Postmodern: Portrayals of the Human in Late Twentieth and Early Twenty-First Century Fiction.
13–14 September, Aula Magna, Palazzo Balbi Cattaneo, Via Balbi 2, Università degli Studi di Genova.
The ANDA Seminar 2018 was held at the University of Genova on 14 September. Trauma and vulnerability but also the importance of relationality and human empathy were its key concepts.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, anxieties and expectations seem to arise about the ability of literature to reaffirm its value, by responding to the ethical and political challenges posed by society and the environment. Conflicts, terrorism, ecological and humanitarian crises, along with the new prestige gained by evolutionary biology and the neurosciences, have conspired to produce the return to the concept of a universal human nature defined by the sense of commonality and the relationship with the nonhuman. The ANDA seminar 2018 explored the fragility of this new consciousness in highly uncertain times.
As emerged from Peter Childs’ compelling and wide-ranging keynote lecture, humans are increasingly presented in fiction from the external vantage point of the posthuman and nonhuman. Childs explored the engagement of twenty-first century novelists with significant issues that pervade contemporary cultural thinking, identifying the signal portrayals of the human in fiction that addresses the circumstances or facticity of social, technological, global, cultural and/or environmental change. The first section of the seminar investigated the human through trauma and care. Alessandra Violi analysed Tom McCarthy’s Remainder as a symptom both of the resilience of postmodernism and the present condition of human vulnerability, whereas Héliane Ventura looked at Alice Munro’s provocative and reparative poetics in the short story “Wood”. The second section moved along a biopolitical axis: Laura Colombino analysed Ishiguro’s treatment of conflict in The Buried Giant (2015), exploring his creation of transnational myths and Lidia De Michelis investigated the aesthetics and politics of hope in Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West. The third and final section was devoted to the definition of the human through relationality. Laura Santini opted for a linguistic analysis of you-narratives and Renate Brosch traced the movement from ego- to eco consciousness in representations of subjectivity, looking at how significant advances in the neurosciences have prompted a fundamental reconceptualization of the human mind which rejects the Freudian model in favour of an innate intersubjectivity.
During the seminar, the first ANDA prizes were awarded to Francesca Di Blasio (category ‘Unpublished article’), Manuela D’Amore (‘Unpublished volume’) Stefano Manferlotti (‘Career’), and Samanta Trivellini (‘Independent scholar’).