Book roundtable on Jeffrey Lawrence’s Anxieties of Experience: The Literatures of the Americas from Whitman to Bolaño (Oxford University Press, 2018) with Michelle Clayton, Luis Othoniel Rosa, and Lee Konstantinou.
Discussion will be in English
Anxieties of Experience: The Literatures of the Americas from Whitman to Bolaño offers a new interpretation of US and Latin American literature from the nineteenth century to the present. Revisiting longstanding debates in the hemisphere about whether the source of authority for New World literature derives from an author's first-hand contact with American places and peoples or from a creative (mis)reading of existing traditions, the book charts a widening gap in how modern US and Latin American writers defined their literary authority. It traces the development of two distinct literary strains in the Americas: the "US literature of experience" and the "Latin American literature of the reader." Reinterpreting a range of canonical works from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass to Roberto Bolaño's 2666, Anxieties of Experience shows how this hemispheric literary divide fueled a series of anxieties, misunderstandings, and "misencounters" between US and Latin American authors. In the wake of recent calls to rethink the "common grounds" approach to literature across the Americas, the book advocates a comparative approach that highlights the distinct logics of production and legitimation in the US and Latin American literary fields. Anxieties of Experience closes by exploring the convergence of the literature of experience and the literature of the reader in the first decades of the twenty-first century, arguing that the post-Bolaño moment has produced the strongest signs of a truly reciprocal literature of the Americas in more than a hundred years.
Jeffrey Lawrence is assistant professor of English at Rutgers-New Brunswick. His work has appeared in American Literary History, Journal of Latin American Culture Studies, Variaciones Borges, and The Huffington Post. His translation of Andrés Neuman’s How to Travel Without Seeing: Dispatches from the New Latin America, was published by Restless books in 2016. Anxieties of Experience is his first book.
Michelle Clayton is an associate professor of Hispanic Studies and Comparative Literature at Brown University. Her first book, Poetry in Pieces: César Vallejo and Lyric Modernity (2011), focused on a Peruvian poet’s encounter with the international avant-gardes; she is now completing a second project, Moving Bodies of the Avant-Garde, which explores forms of cultural circulation –across languages, media, and regions—in the early decades of the twentieth century.
Luis Othoniel Rosa is the author of two novels: Otra vez me alejo (2012) and Caja de fractales (2017), and the book Comienzos para una estética anarquista: Borges con Macedonio (2016). He studied at the University of Puerto Rico and holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University. He currently teaches in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
Lee Konstantinou is Associate Professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the author of the novel "Pop Apocalypse" and the literary history "Cool Characters: Irony and American Fiction." With Samuel Cohen, he co-edited "The Legacy of David Foster Wallace.” He is currently working on a monograph about the novelist Helen DeWitt as well as a critical history of the graphic novel.
Advance praise for Anxieties of Experience:
"A massively erudite and elegantly written book, Anxieties of Experience takes its readers on a hemispheric journey through modern times, leading up to the present. Comparing and contrasting the literatures of North and South America is ultimately, for Lawrence, a means of examining whether a bookish life is a life lived to the fullest. With its sustained line of inquiry across corpora, the volume makes a valuable contribution to several fields of study-while also introducing general readers to hemispheric studies."
--Héctor Hoyos, Stanford University, author of Beyond Bolaño: The Global Latin American Novel
"Anxieties of Experience offers an exceptionally bold and mind-expanding reconnaissance of the counterpoint and interweave between distinctive traditions of U. S. and Latin American literary thought and practice over the past two centuries. Anyone seriously interested in the past, the present, and the likely future of 'hemispheric literature' will want to read this book from start to finish."
--Lawrence Buell, Harvard University, author of The Dream of the Great American Novel
"An exciting, lucid reframing of the interactions between North American and Latin American literatures over the course of the past two centuries, Anxieties of Experience shows the critical and conceptual gains to be made from rethinking the hemispheric through the lens of world literature. Moving nimbly between close analysis and distant views to map the shifting, dialogic, dialectical relation between literatures north and south, the book's central concern and achievement is to reboot and reorient hemispheric literary studies; stowed-away in its coda is a thrilling supplement, a mapping of an entirely new scene of the contemporary. Lawrence's is a witty, incisive, eloquent new voice in literary and cultural criticism."
--Michelle Clayton, Brown University, Poetry in Pieces: César Vallejo and Lyric Modernity