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No Future: 21st Century Literature and Culture

A one day Workshop, at the University of Warwick
Saturday 17 September 2022

Free and Open to the Public: Please Register by August 5Link opens in a new window

In 2004, in his field-defining book No Future, Lee Edelman stressed a particularly transgressive aspect of “queerness”: “queerness names the side of those not ‘fighting for the children,’ the side outside the consensus by which all politics confirms the absolute value of reproductive futurism.” In 2022, with the over-turning of Roe v. Wade in the United States, Edelman’s insistence on the political breach represented by non-reproductive sexuality seems all the more significant, as the biopolitical project of imposing futurity on sex and particularly on women becomes ever more prominent.

Of course, the future of 2004 is not the future of today. In the intervening 18 years, we have seen a series of truly transformative and related events which have destabilised the very notion Edelman took as his target: the financial collapse of 2008, ending the “end of history” which bourgeois liberal democracy was said by some to represent; the rise to power and influence of authoritarian, xenophobic, and racist movements throughout the world, but notably in major anglophone countries such as the USA, the UK, and India; a massive increase in economic inequality throughout the world and the emergence of a new “gilded age” leading to still further immiseration of the poor and diminished expectations for the middle class in most wealthy nations; and most recently, the reappearance of a serious risk of nuclear conflict, an existential threat which had been largely forgotten since the 1990s. In the background to all of this, and indissociably intertwined, is the factor that overwhelms all others: the environmental catastrophe of global heating, against which no meaningful actions have been taken, or seem to be in the offing. More than any other, this last element changes the nature of the question the younger generations (and not only them) are confronted with: not only, what kind of future might be coming, but is there a future to plan for at all?

Thus, if the last 20 odd years mark not only the new century but also the new millennium, to many living through them they feel less like a new beginning than the beginning of the end. If, as Bifo Berardi suggests, the twentieth century was “the century that trusted in the future” (After the Future), then the 21st century has truly arrived.

This workshop, aimed broadly at 21st century cultural production, hopes to take into consideration not only various expressions of these legitimate fears, be they symptomatic, analytical or both, but also the responses to them, in terms of new forms of activism, mobilisation, and analysis of power-relations, which also characterize the new century in forms such as Black Lives Matter, “Me Too,” “Occupy,” climate-activism, and a legitimation of “socialist” ideas within the mainstream to an extent unimaginable at the end of the last century. In these respects, “no future” means something else too: no “future” as replication and continuation of the same. That is, the absolute future by another name.

Event Site: Ramphal, R1.13
(campus map here)Link opens in a new window







Session 1: Stephen Shapiro, Chair

1. Myka Tucker-Abramson, University of Warwick, “On the road to Collapse: The Road Novel at the End of the American century.”

2. Peggy Pacini, CY Cergy Paris Université, “ ‘A classic with a 21st Century Twist’: 1 The Road and the Cannibalistic Junkspace of Techno-Capitalism.”

3. Karim Daanoune, Paul Valéry-Montpellier 3, “The Ethics of Listening in Don DeLillo's The Silence.


Session 2: Mantra Mukim, Chair

1. Thomas Dutoit, Lille, and Cécile Roudeau, Université Paris-Cité, “ ‘Even though the whole world is burning’ (W. S. Merwin): Poetry Still? Poetry Now?”

2. Abigail Lang, Université Paris-Cité, Putting Queer Futurity and The Undercommons into practice: Collective Translation as Social Poetics.




Session 3: Myka Tucker-Abramson, Chair

1. Yannicke Chupin, CY Cergy Paris Université, “A Bell Tolls for the Future: Lance Olsens’s historiographic novels: My Red Heaven (2019), Skin Elegy (2021).”

2. Mantra Mukim, University of Warwick, “In Praise of Future: Renee Gladman and the Modernist Legacies of Precarity.”

3. Anne-Laure Tissut, Rouen, “Identification and Voice in Laird Hunt’s Recent Fiction.”


Session 4: Nick Lawrence, Chair

1. Graeme Macdonald, University of Warwick, “The Perpetual Problem: Renewable Dystopias in the 21st Century.”

2. Leonello Bazzurro, University of Warwick, “ ‘Apocalyptic Humour’: the Transgressive Role of Humour in Contemporary Cultural Productions about Climate Change.”

3. Caitlin Vandertop, University of Warwick, “ ‘The Future of Our Past’: Cultural Enclosure and the Genealogies of Oceanian Modernism.”




Session 5: Graeme Macdonald, Chair

1. Daniel Katz, University of Warwick, “Good Sameness: On Bad Collectivities.”

2. Nick Lawrence, University of Warwick: “The Cultural Logic of Degrowth.”

3. Stephen Shapiro, University of Warwick, “The University after Centrist Liberalism: Genre, Bayesian Literary Studies and the End of Semiotic.”