&NOW: A Festival
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APRIL 5-6, 2004 (Proposal Deadline: January 16, 2004)

&NOW is a festival to celebrate writing as a contemporary art form: writing as it is practiced today by authors who consciously treat their work as a practice that is aware of its own literary and extra-literary history, that is as much about its form and materials, language, as it is about its subject matter; a practice that both emerges from and provides a way to express a world that is now 200 years after Ivanhoe , 100 years after Freud, 50 years after Picasso, Elvis, and Faulkner, 10 years after the birth of www....

That is, &NOW hopes to bring together a wide range of writers who are interested in exploring the possibilities of form, the limits of language; who are interested in literature that emphasizes text as a medium, the material nature of language; a literature that articulates an assumption that literary form, like form in music or visual art, both reflects and emerges from its historical moment.

&NOW is also a festival of literature invested in the idea that aesthetic choices are political, or otherwise articulates convictions about how the world works, including the literary world.  While institutions tend to limit the definition of what counts as a novel or poem, this is a type of literature that by its nature tends to keep these definitions unresolved.

Sometimes called experimental, conceptual, avant-garde, hybrid, surfiction, fusion, radical, slip-stream, avant-pop, postmodern, self-conscious, innovative, alternative, anti- or new literature, literature conceived as an art form rather than as a craft can be thought of as a literature whose aesthetic often shares an ethos with contemporary thought, a literature that takes its own medium as part of its subject matter or works against the assumptions of the status quo, especially literature conceived in commercial terms:  a literature that speaks by employing a variety of linguistic games, slippages, puzzles, parodies, talking animals, historical disjunctions, discursive juxtapositions, visuals, appropriations, spatial play, collage techniques, and other rhetorical strategies and constraints, even those of realism.  If traditional, mainstream literature is the equivalent of a 19th century still-life, literature as a contemporary art form would be the equivalent of the art video or the sculpture that uses genetically-engineered cells as its medium.  That is, contemporary art-lit can be thought of as a kind of literature that is as invested in its own medium or materials as it is engaged with the world: a literature that is more interested in using form, like its counterparts in music and the visual arts, to work through ideas rather than to create a transparent, illusionistic window on the world.

By bringing together all kinds of writers who are interested in literature as a contemporary art form, &NOW hopes to take stock of this "other" tradition, and perhaps offer a glimpse of where it is going.

Selected work from &NOW will be published in a special issue of The Notre Dame Review devoted to writing as a conceptual art.