New Realisms for the Realities of the 21st Century
Speakers: Daniel Heath Justice, Larissa Lai, Ato Quayson, Angela Rawlings, and Aritha van Herk
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This one-day event will bring together a small group of writers and scholars — small so that there is the opportunity for intense discussion —to address how what we have come to know as “literary fiction” has outgrown its long-established realist conventions. Alongside so-called “literary fiction” many other forms have blossomed in the last fifty years or so, forms that don’t register in the mainstream national imaginary, but that nonetheless are an important and indeed constitutive part of the Canadian literary tradition. We might call those forms “avant-garde,” “speculative fiction,” “new narrative,” or “experimental.” Some of these forms attempt to engage that “thing” we call reality without cranking it into the stilted structure of conventional representational practices, preferring, perhaps, to represent time as it unfolds; others privilege language as what constitutes our reality; still others take their “realist” cues from futures as yet to come. Our concept of realism, like our concept of the literary, is long overdue for renovation, reconstruction, and fresh shoots. This colloquium is designed to provide a critical and dialogic space for Canadian writers and critics to point us in productive directions.
Daniel Heath Justice is a novelist and Associate Professor of English (Aboriginal Literatures) at the University of Toronto. His publications include an Indigenous fantasy trilogy, The Way of Thorn and Thunder—Kynship (2005), Wyrwood (2006), and Dreyd (2007), all published by Kegedonce Press—as well as Our Fire Survives the Storm: A Cherokee Literary History (U Minnesota 2006). Justice is a U.S.-born Canadian citizen of the Cherokee Nation.
Larissa Lai is a critically acclaimed poet, novelist, and professor of Canadian literature at the University of British Columbia. Her first novel, When Fox Is a Thousand (Press Gang 1995, Arsenal Pulp 2004) was shortlisted for the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award. Her second novel, Salt Fish Girl (Thomas Allen Publishers 2002) was shortlisted for the Sunburst Award, the Tiptree Award and the City of Calgary W. O. Mitchell Award. In 2004, West Coast Line published a special issue focussed on her work. She has been the Markin-Flanagan Writer-in-Residence at the University of Calgary (1997-8), and Writer-in-Residence in the English Department at Simon Fraser University (2006). sybil unrest, her collaborative long poem with Rita Wong, was published by Line Books in 2009. Eggs in the Basement, a long poem based on a vocabulary exhaustion exercise, surprised its writer by telling the story of Moses and Monotheism; it was published by Nomados, also in 2009, and has just been shortlisted for the bpNichol Chapbook Award. Lai’s first solo full-length poetry book, Automaton Biographies (Arsenal Pulp), was a finalist for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize.
Ato Quayson is Professor of English and Director of the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto, where he has been since August 2005. Prof. Quayson has published widely on African literature, postcolonial studies and in literary theory. Prof. Quayson is a Fellow of the Cambridge Commonwealth Society, sits on the Commissioning Panel of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) of the United Kingdom, and has been Visiting Professor at the University of California, Berkeley and has lectured widely in places such as Istanbul, Amsterdam, Tel Aviv, Cape Town, Bergen, and on many campuses in the US, the UK, and in Europe more generally.
Writer, arts educator, and interdisciplinarian a.rawlings has presented and published work throughout North America, Europe, and Australia. Her first book, Wide slumber for lepidopterists (Coach House Books 2006), received an Alcuin Award for Design and was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award; the book is currently being translated into French. As the recipient of a Chalmers Arts Fellowship, angela spent 2009 and 2010 in Belgium, Canada, and Iceland working on her next manuscripts, researching sound/text/movement with special emphasis on vocal and contact improvisation, and collaborating with local artists. angela’s current collaborators are experiential theatre company bluemouth inc., Belgian artist Maja Jantar, Canadian musician Nilan Perera, and Canadian dancer Julie Lassonde.
Aritha van Herk is the author of five novels, Judith, The Tent Peg, No Fixed Address (nominated for the Governor General’s Award for fiction), Places Far From Ellesmere (a geografictione), and Restlessness. Her wide-ranging critical work is collected in A Frozen Tongue and In Visible Ink. Her irreverent but relevant history of Alberta, Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta, won the Grant MacEwan Author’s Award for Alberta Writing. That book frames the permanent exhibition on Alberta history, which opened at the Glenbow Museum and Archives in Calgary in 2007; her latest book, Audacious and Adamant: the Story of Maverick Alberta, accompanies the exhibit. Mavericks was also chosen as the inaugural book in the Calgary Public Library’s ONE BOOK/ONE CALGARY initiative in November of 2010. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and she is active in the literary and cultural life of the west, the nation, and the world. She is University Professor and Professor of English at the University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
10:00-11:00 – Readings by Daniel Heath Justice, Larissa Lai, angela rawlings
11:00-11:30 – Coffee / Tea Break
11:30-12:30 – Panel I: New Realities / Writing New Realisms
Moderator: Larissa Lai
Daniel Heath Justice, “All Realism is Escapist: Interventions of the Fantastic.”
angela rawlings, “EAR KNOWS THROAT / HERE NORTH WROTE: An interrogation through sound and text of the imagined Real”
12:30-1:30 – Catered Lunch
1:30-2:30 – Panel II: Realisms & The Politics of Representation
Moderator: Smaro Kamboureli
Ato Quayson, “Magical Realism and Disability in the Canadian Context: Robert Kroetsch and Timothy Findlay”
Aritha van Herk, “The Practical Text”
2:30-2:45 – Coffee / Tea Break
2:45-4:15 – Round Table: Moderator Smaro Kamboureli
New Realisms: Canadian Writing After the 20th Century
Daniel Heath Justice, Larissa Lai, Ato Quayson, angela Rawlings, Aritha van Herk
4:15-4:30 – Break
4:30-5:15 – Reading by Aritha van Herk
5:15-6:30 – Reception