Discourses That Matter
How can English and American Studies be instrumental to conceptualizing the deep instability we are presently facing? How can they address the coordinates of this instability, such as war, terrorism, the current economic and financial crisis, and the consequent myriad forms of deprivation and fear? How can they tackle the strategies of de-humanization, invisibility, and the naturalization of inequality and injustice entailed in contemporary discourses? This anthology grew out of an awareness of the need to debate the role of English and American Studies both in the present context and in relation to the so-called demise of the Humanities.Drawing on Judith Butler's rethinking of materiality as the effect of power, in her study Bodies That Matter (1993), we locate this collection of essays at the crossroads of discourse and power, while we expect the work collected here to highlight the ability of discourses to materialize in, or as, truth, and as such to support or decry particular constituencies. Discourses therefore matter to us as products and vehicles of power relations that can be subject to the analytical and interpretative tools of English and American Studies. Our idea was to challenge especially young scholars to position their research concerning the ability of their fields to be discourses that matter, in the case in point, to be critical practices that make an active intervention in current debates. By focusing on matters such as language as witness to the world, representations of gender, race, and ethnicity, performative discourses, exceptionalism and power, and interculturality, these essays pursue the chance to deepen, enlarge, and question both literary and cultural phenomena, their established critical readings, and the strategies deployed in representations. Finally, English and American Studies in the present collection demonstrate their affiliation to the Humanities by exploring the numerous possibilities offered by their discourses: their ability to foster critical thought, allowing us to think for (and outside) ourselves, their capacity to test, argue, and question, and their profound imaginative potential.
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