This is a proposed special session for the 2012 MLA convention. Sixteenth and seventeenth-century works, from Utopia to The Blazing World, engaged in acts of worldmaking by speculating on or inventing "possible worlds.” This panel will examine the scope and limitations of these early modern possible worlds, and more generally, the condition of the “possible,” which authors variously define through the terms “what may be,” “what should be,” or even “what if.”
We will ask: What distinct epistemological claims are enabled through these acts of worldmaking? How does the concept and example of the possible world become a vehicle through which one examines contemporary social, political and epistemological issues? How do possible worlds enable us to think of the relation between reality and imagination, between truth and fiction? What is the relationship between utopia and possible worlds? How does the notion of possibility vary across genres? And finally, how does the idea of the “possible,” as an unactualized or counterfactual epistemological framework, shape our own disciplinary and critical practices? Interdisciplinary approaches particularly welcome.
Please send a 300-word abstract by 1 March 2011 to Debapriya Sarkar at firstname.lastname@example.org.