Ideas of Order: Narrative Patterns in the Novels of Richard Powers
Conference at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
11/26 - 11/28 2010
According to Richard Powers, whose ten novels to date have generated a lively critical discourse, literature needs to engage with all the available modes of knowledge and representation to examine how identity is constituted in culturally situated relations. Powers insists that “you cannot understand a person minimally, you cannot understand a person simply as a function of his inability to get along with his wife, you cannot even understand a person through his supposedly causal psychological profile.” Powers’s novels engage with this understanding of the individual as a complex system that exceeds the mere sum of its parts by implementing narrative patterns which establish parallels and symmetries between radically different levels of experience. However, the patterns and systems created in his novels are less predefined templates that would reduce the inherent complexity of the world in order to enable its representation. They are much rather self-consciously symmetric narratives that function as self-referential artifices through which the world can be refracted and ultimately reaffirmed. Consequently, Powers’s novels are described as hovering between the poles of mimetic realism and metafictional postmodernism, creating narratives in which the conventions of realism are both deployed and undermined, in which characters are simultaneously presented as motivated agents and as textual constructs.
Taking its cue from Wallace
Stevens’s poem “The Idea of Order at
The conference is supported by contributions from the Dr. German Schweiger-Stiftung (FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg) as well as from these following organizations: