Iperstoria. Journal of American and English Studies
Call for Papers Special Issue Fall 2023
re- and de-: Prefixes and Paradigms to Reconstruct and Deconstruct the United States Within and Without Borders
Enrico Botta, University of Verona
Serena Fusco, University of Naples “L’Orientale”
In this monographic section of Iperstoria, we consider the function that the two prefixes “re-” and “de-” have had in defining US culture and establishing authentic and effective cognitive paradigms. The prefix re- tends to have an iterative value of duplication and repetition of the original word, or an intensive and emphatic function with respect to the term it precedes. The prefix de- generally indicates separation and dispersion of a concept, as well as reversal, alteration, and weakening of the “positive” meaning of a specific lemma.
In The Limits of Critique (2015), Rita Felski emphasizes the strong opposition that the two prefixes delineate and, with regard to their theoretical usage, seems to “side with” the more reassuring re- in alternative to the more disturbing de-: “We shortchange the significance of art by focusing on the ‘de’ prefix (its power to demystify, destabilize, denaturalize) at the expense of the ‘re’ prefix: its ability to recontextualize, reconfigure, or recharge perception.” Although the dichotomies to which they refer may appear irreconcilable, also in light of all the other prefixes—anti-, trans-, post-, etc.—that have characterized the critical approaches and methodologies of the past decades, the interaction of the two paradigms seems particularly functional in framing cultural phenomena in their diachronic and synchronic evolution.
The very definition of New World identifies the American continent as a system that emerges and develops around a series of different and oppositional semantic articulations of the two prefixes: the new overseas civilization presented itself as a re-proposition, replication, and reconstruction of the Old World and, at the same time, as a structure that was to disavow and dismantle it. The multiple relationships suggested by the two prefixes orient several phenomena that have pervaded US political and cultural identity since its founding act: if the revolution built the new national system after disassembling the existing one, the post-Civil War period reconstructed an order that had become disoriented and disconnected. These two births of the nation are merely milestones of phases of remaking and undoing that are part of a more general process of reconstruction and destruction. Such process shapes various cultural practices, such as: rewriting originals, interpretive dismantling, adaptations as reprises and disarticulations of existing works; translations as rearrangements of elements decoded from the source model in another language; philological reconstructions; and hermeneutic disambiguation. The two prefixes also direct dynamics that regulate group and gender identities: if cancel culture activism tends to destroy what monuments sought to reconstruct of a past of oppression and exploitation, movements such as Black Lives Matter and #Me Too aim not only at redefining individuals’ civil rights in terms of resistance but also at disengaging the country’s history from repressive practices, declining cultural politics that are particularly controversial when contextualized in a global perspective.
With this thematic section of Iperstoria, we attempt to demonstrate that the cognitive and semantic cross-references of the two prefixes are especially complex and elusive, and that their interaction is a hinge around which all those processes of making, remaking, and unmaking that define the United States in a global context revolve. We encourage, therefore, proposals that explicitly consider the two prefixes as cognitive and stylistic filters in the processes of artistic production and/or as value filters in the definition of gender identity, race, and ethnicity, so as to open up new spaces of inquiry and intervention.
Possible themes may include but are not limited to:
- Reconstruction/destruction of the idea of canon;
- Restoration/deletion of the concept of authorship;
- Recoding/decoding of texts in cross-cultural and transcultural contexts;
- Reformulation/deconstruction of artistic representations of historical events;
- Reorganization of archives;
- Refunctionalization of the digital humanities;
- Restructuring/destructuring the relationship between American literature and world literature;
- Restructuring/destructuring the relationship between ancient and modern in national and transnational comparative terms;
- Reconstruction of the original from the translated text;
- Rethinking multilingualism in US culture and society;
- Reconsideration of orality in American history and culture;
- Construction/reconstruction/destruction of tradition;
- Reconsideration of exceptionalism vs. globalism and of the US position in a global context;
- Recognition of minority identities.
Instructions and deadlines
Publication is scheduled for December 2023. Papers, in either Italian or English, must be submitted by May 31, 2023. They should be between 5,000 and 8,000 words in length.
Those interested in submitting a proposal should send a 250-word abstract to the editors at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com by March 15, 2023 (DEADLINE EXTENDED TO MARCH 31, 2023). Abstracts will be evaluated by the editors and notifications will be sent shortly thereafter.
Submitted manuscripts must be original and uploaded to the journal website following the procedure available at https://iperstoria.it/about/submissions#onlineSubmissions.
Final acceptance will depend on the relevance of the article to the call theme(s), as well as on the originality and quality level of the submission. All submitted manuscripts must conform to Iperstoria’s guidelines.