By Suzanne Weiss/Director of Public Relations
MANITOWOC, Wis. — Can fiction help bring about a better understanding of what’s going on around us? Dr. Mark Heimermann, assistant professor of English at Silver Lake College, thinks so.
He has been selected to present “From Textile Worker to Silk Worm: Grotesque Metamorphosis in ‘Reeling for the Empire’” on March 17 at the five-day International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando, Florida.
Fantastic, in this sense, refers to speculative fiction, fantasy and science fiction, he said.
The conference “revolves around how looking at these kinds of narratives can help us understand the world, but in new ways,” Dr. Heimermann said.
“‘Reeling for the Empire’ is a short story of speculative fiction by Karen Russell, which takes place in Japan around the turn of the 20th century. It’s about women textile workers who transform into human-size silk worms,” he said. “I’m arguing that this short story is reflective of how we define people by the work that they do. It also transforms how we think of people. A lot of her work revolves around issues of class. The characters in this story are basically kept as prisoners. It’s all about exploitation of workers, women in this case, for capitalist and patriarchal ends.”
While author Russell is a contemporary American writer, the book is based on practices that took place in the past, Dr. Heimermann said.
“Even though it takes place in that time period and is a fantasy, it’s commenting on the contemporary moment as well,” he said.
PHOTO: Dr. Mark Heimermann teaches English at SIlver Lake College. Photo by Suzanne Weiss