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Taking the Future Into Account: Today's Books for Tomorrow's Readers

Date and Time: 
Thursday, November 29, 2018. 06:00 PM - 08:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Watt Dining Room
Workshop: 
Environmental Humanities Project
Meeting Description: 

EHP is pleased to host Michaela Bronstein, assistant professor of English at Stanford, for a presentation and discussion of her forthcoming article "Taking the Future into Account: Today's Books for Tomorrow's Readers," to be published in PMLA early next year. The idea of writing for the future often seems like a selfish act: a claim for personal immortality. Yet, in the context of climate change, writing with future readers in mind also requires imagining the needs of a world radically different from our own. This article examines Future Library, an artwork in which authors contribute writing that will not be read until 2114, and the fiction of David Mitchell, one of the contributing authors. Writing for the future is political, not because it represents the future but because it simultaneously demands intervention in the present and opens itself to the new and to unexpected future uses.

Michaela Bronstein is an assistant professor of English at Stanford University. She studies the history of the novel, focusing on the experience of reading---both the intimate temporality of the span of time a reader spends immersed in a particular novel, and the longer history of the way books get picked up and repurposed across temporal and national boundaries. Her teaching and research interests range across 20th-century narrative: from text to television, from Anglo-American modernism to contemporary African fiction. Her first book, Out of Context: The Uses of Modernist Fiction, came out from Oxford University Press. It examines the transhistorical uses of modernist literary forms: rather than looking for the political significance of modernist novels in the context in which they were written, she looks at the uses later writers have made of them. She is also under way on a second book project, Crimes for All Mankind: Revolution and the Modern Novel, which examines novels about revolutionaries intertextually connected with one another from 19th-century Russia to South Africa and England today.

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