Writers are often encouraged to cultivate work that reveals a universal, or “relatable” experience. But how does one define universal experience? Are readers being led to demand their own faces in the mirror, instead of the reflection that comes from reading about unfamiliar places, uncommon people, and new experiences? This talk will examine the rise of “the relatable” and argue instead for the importance of difference and the unknown. How can we encounter the queer, the alien, the unexpected, and the excluded not as points of confusion or disconnection, but rather as an occasion to come together and to form more complex and liberatory collective meanings?
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