Penn State’s Center for American Literary Studies presents “Now What?” What Now?: Approaching a Precarious Present

Friday, March 18, 2022
noon–1:00 p.m.
Penn State’s Center for American Literary Studies presents “Now What?” What Now?: Approaching a Precarious Present

The February 2021 issue of Harper’s Magazine, titled “Now What?”, includes a special section devoted to speculation on multiple facets of “Life After Trump.” As with commentary speculating about a COVID-19 world, characterizing the post-Trump era as an unprecedented “now” presumes temporal clarity, including a clearly demarcated present. Such characterizations thus greatly simplify our contemporary moment, framing complex forces—like Trumpist politics and pandemic repercussions—according to a simple before-and-after logic. How can we better account for the full complexity of an ever-shifting present? Bringing together three scholars whose work surveys this terrain, this webinar considers what it means to direct our critical attention to “now.”


Theodore Martin, Associate Professor of English, University of California, Irvine

Martin is the author of Contemporary Drift: Genre, Historicism, and the Problem of the Present (Columbia University Press 2017). He is currently writing a book entitled “American Literature’s War on Crime,” an excerpt of which received honorable mention for the 2021 William Riley Parker Prize for best essay in PMLA.


Caren Irr, Professor of English, Brandeis University

Irr teaches in the English, Environmental Studies, and Film programs at Brandeis University. She is the author of three monographs and has edited five collections--most recently Life in Plastic: Artistic Responses to Petromodernity (University of Minnesota Press 2021) and Adorno's Minima Moralia in the 21st Century: Fascism, Work, and Ecology (Bloomsbury Academic 2021).


Ana Cooke, Assistant Professor of English, Penn State

Cooke’s research focuses on how networked media shapes public and professional discourses, particularly in collaborative online environments. Her current book project, “Collaborating in Public,” traces how the global-warming related articles in Wikipedia have changed over time, particularly in the wake of the 2007 International Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report.



Joe Glinbizzi, Graduate Student, Department of English, Penn State


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Virtual Event