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REN: Revista de Estudios Norteamericanos




Número 16 - 2012



Ana Manzanas & Jesús Benito, Cities, Borders and Spaces in Intercultural American Literature and Film




Call For Papers for Our Next Conference

"'Fear Narratives' and their Role/Use in the United States"

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17)"Good Fear, Bad Fear: Apocalyptic Plagues, Cautionary Tales, and Risk Criticism"
Panel Chair: Begoña Simal González, Universidade da Coruña
E-mail: bsimal@udc.es  


In the spring of 2020 human hubris received an eye-opening blow in the form of a devastating pandemic. Probably the most positive lesson we derived from that crisis was the equally contagious feeling of solidarity, born of the increasing awareness of our shared vulnerability as inhabitants of the same planet. That "good" sobering fear, however, could easily mutate and be redeployed as "bad" fear. World history, and American history in particular, abounds in outbreaks of panic. Mixed with anger, that BAD FEAR often takes the shape of "scapegoating": in order to assuage one's anxiety, one puts the blame on a given person or group, usually an ethnic or racialized community (e.g. the Jews in Nazi Germany). The US was no exception: African Americans during/after slavery, Chinese immigrants in the 19th century, people of Japanese ancestry after Pearl Harbor... Such panic can also lead to sheer survival instincts and an exacerbation of individualist, selfish drives, so common in dystopias and post-apocalyptic narratives (e.g. McCarthy's The Road); and, more rarely, it can lead to paralysis or an "ostrich" reaction of denial.

What about the "GOOD FEAR"? As mentioned above, the 2020 pandemic seemed to bring about a positive type of fear, more akin to caution, that managed to elicit compassion and solidarity across generational, class, gender and national frontiers. Its very global scope held a promise that a real planetary consciousness might emerge. This was a "good fear," the kind that prompts us to be cautious and take care of other human beings and, I would add, the planet. In our attempt to read some narratives of fear as cautionary tales, Risk Criticism (Beck, Wallace) can prove quite illuminating.

I encourage participants to explore good/bad fear narratives in American culture, by focusing, among others, on the following:

o "Good fear" narratives as cautionary tales;

o Planetary consciousness and risk criticism;

o "Bad fear" narratives: Plagues and social/biological slippages;

o Apocalyptic narratives: Paralyzing or awakening?;

o Waste theory: Narratives of literal/metaphorical waste(scapes).



Abstracts of Proposals are to be e-mailed directly to the chair of the selected panel using this form. The deadline for submitting abstracts is October 15, 2020. Panel chairs are expected to accept/reject proposals and have panels set up by November 15.


Non-members of SAAS (of all nationalities) are welcome to participate in the conference, but will be required to pay membership dues for one year as well as the conference registration fee. Members of ASA (American Studies Association), AISNA (Associazione Italiana di Studi Nor-Americani), APEAA (Portuguese Association for Anglo-American Studies) and HELAAS (Hellenic Association for American Studies) need only pay the conference registration fee.

Further guideliness for participants can be found here.

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