Jeffrey Hotz (East Stroudsburg University)
Throughout his career, Kurt Vonnegut’s complex treatment of time—linear and cyclical, and in terms of the past, present, and future—animated complex plot lines, added depth and layering to his characterization, fueled biting social commentary, and posed challenging philosophical questions on matters related to mortality, morality, and the purpose of life. Vonnegut’s body of work, including in his fiction and non-fiction, addresses the problem of time in troubled times. In a sense, Vonnegut’s art can be viewed as a form of artistic “horology.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines horology as “the study and measurement of time,” a concern integral to Vonnegut’s vision.
For example, across his fourteen novels, from his dystopian debut Player Piano (1952) to the so-called “stew” of his final novel Timequake (1997), time alterations and unusual chronologies are central. Vonnegut’s short stories and his non-fiction display a similar obsession with time. Vonnegut begins his last work of non-fiction published in his lifetime, the essay collection A Man Without a Country (2005), with a statement about how his own sense of humor was defined by coming of age in times of trouble: “I grew up at a time when comedy in this country was superb—it was the Great Depression.”
This panel seeks papers related to Vonnegut’s treatment of time in his fiction and non-fiction. Paper proposals may address this theme directly or tangentially. All approaches are welcome.