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Spiteful Literature: An Affective Theory of Precarity

Carlsbergfondets postdoc-stipendier i Danmark

What

This project is called Spiteful Literature: An Affective Theory of Precarity and it investigates fictional narratives by Indigenous peoples and Ozark/Appalachian inhabitants. As a Carlsberg Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, I will analyse the representations and uses of spite in literary texts, and I will construct a theory of spite as an affective literary device in US literature.

Why

The project sheds light on the current political climate in the US by arguing that the literary representations resonate with ongoing real social and cultural concerns, such as the spitefulness of Trump-voters, disenfranchisement of poor communities, and ongoing dispossession and colonisation of Native/Indigenous peoples, as well as these groups' responses to these processes. Thus, the project will challenge received notions of social mobility inherent in the American Creed and shed light on a contemporary (literary and sociopolitical) tendency towards desperate, but reasonable, spiteful (self)separatism.

How

The investigation will be carried out by 1) exploring the affective and cultural contexts of the spiteful narratives, 2) by examining fictional representations of precarious lives and actors/characters as desperate and spiteful, and 3) by analysing the narrative and aesthetic devices that produce precarious feelings.

SSR

Researching precarious lives requires not only sociological studies, but also studies exploring the stories precarious people tell. Literature is central to the human experience as it simultaneously explains the world and critiques world structures. Thus, investigating literature as a social and cultural phenomenon that not only has meaning but creates meaning is central to humanistic scientific social responsibility.