University of Cambridge Contemporary Research Group

Category: Conferences (Page 1 of 2)

CFP: PhD Symposium on Questions of Scale in Contemporary Literature and Criticism

The beginning of the twenty-first century can be characterized as an era of scalar instability. Climate change, globalization, and developments in the life sciences have made it necessary to envisage a scale beyond the human, disrupting the anthropocentrism of Western literary and critical frameworks (Ray Brassier). The concept of the Anthropocene, which marks the inscription of human activities onto the Earth’s ecosystem, requires us to “scale up our imagination of the human” as it blurs the distinction between human and natural history (Dipesh Chakrabarty). While impending ecological disaster challenges our customary experience of time and space, technological innovations in communication, transportation, and economics have significantly accelerated the pace of life and condensed spatial distances (David Harvey’s “time-space compression”). At the same time, advances in our understanding of genetics and neurobiology have changed our perception of the body and the brain as coherent, contained systems, prompting us to consider them instead in terms of interactions between microscopic cellular components (Nikolas Rose).
The fluctuations in scale prompted by a consideration of the “spatiotemporal vastness and numerousness of the nonhuman world” (Mark McGurl) have also marked contemporary literature and criticism. Take, for example, the current manifestation of the “finance novel,” which arose in response to the volatility of the globalized economy. Works such as Robert Harris’s The Fear Index dramatize how the acceleration of time and condensing of space that the high-frequency algorithms of the financial system facilitate leave humans radically exposed to the variations of the market (Arne De Boever). Moreover, “neuro-novels”—novels that engage explicitly with the intricacies of neurological conditions, such as Ian McEwan’s Saturday and Richard Powers’s The Echo Maker–are symptomatic of the ways in which the insights of modern medical science have shifted our understanding of the self away from history and society to a cellular level (Marco Roth). Furthermore, the extension of time scales in works such as Don DeLillo’s Point Omega, Bruno Latour’sGaia, and Alice Oswald’s A Sleepwalk on the Severn is emblematic of a new consciousness of humankind as a geological agent. In their respective considerations of “the impact of nonhuman otherness on human life” (Pieter Vermeulen), these various works challenge the anthropocentrism of traditional literary forms.

We invite paper proposals from PhD students that address questions of scale in contemporary literature and criticism. Possible questions for discussion include, but are not limited to:

  • In what ways has the scalar instability of the twenty-first century prompted new modes of artistic, theoretical, and philosophical inquiry (e.g., cli-fi, neuro-lit, the finance novel, posthumanism, object-oriented ontology, speculative realism, and vibrant materialism)?
  • How does it affect established critical methodologies that have tended to be oblivious to questions of scale and non-human agency, such as ecocriticism and trauma and memory studies?
  • Which narrative techniques and literary practices are most suited to exploring the impact of what Richard Grusin has dubbed the “nonhuman turn,” that is, the tendency towards a decentring of the human that unites a wide variety of contemporary theoretical and philosophical approaches?
  • How do extremities of scale disrupt notions of autonomous subjectivity that continue to dominate Western political and critical frameworks? How can a biopolitical perspective, which deconstructs the concept of the proprietary body, help us to examine this?
  • How can literature help us to explore the implications for human agency that the Anthropocene presents?
  • How can an engagement with questions of scale open a dialogue between science and literary scholarship?

Practical Information


Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Ghent University, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent, Belgium

23rd-25th March 2016

None (optional: symposium dinner €40)

A 300-word abstract for a 15-minute paper (including title, presenter’s name, institutional affiliation, and any technology requests), a description of your PhD research project (one paragraph), and a short CV (max. one page) as a single Word document to both Holly Brown (holly[dot]brown[at]ugent[dot]be) and Prof. Stef Craps (stef[dot]craps[at]ugent[dot]be)

Deadline for submission of applications:
11 December 2015

Notification of acceptance:
18 December 2015

Deadline for submission of paper drafts:
15 February 2016

Number of places:
Max. 18

Here by the sea and sand: A symposium on Quadrophenia CALL FOR PAPERS

quadHere by the sea and sand: A symposium on Quadrophenia

 Sponsored by the Centre for Modernist Studies, University of Sussex

 Falmer, Brighton

 11 July 2014

 Keynote Speaker: James Wood (Harvard University, The New Yorker)

 “I don’t want to be the same as everyone else. That’s why I’m a mod, see?”

Released 40 years ago in 1973, The Who’s ambitious concept album Quadrophenia portrays the 1964 August bank holiday battle between mods and rockers on Brighton beach from the perspective of the young disillusioned pill-popping mod protagonist, Jimmy. Franc Roddam’s iconic film of the album was made in 1979, and in the past year the Who has toured playing the entire album. Quadrophenia, the album, was a comparative failure when released, but has since been recognised by many critics as their masterpiece. Quadrophenia is a complex and multilayered work, combining some of the Who’s most arresting music with a variety of other art forms (Townshend’s story in the liner notes, Ethan Russell’s compelling book of photographs). It is embedded in two sites, London and Brighton, as well as in many more personal and political histories.

The Centre for Modernist Studies at Sussex has decided to live up to its name by holding a one-day symposium on the album and film. Quadrophenia fans, please consider joining us.

Possible topics include but are not limited to: the representation of Mods; Mod revival(s) and nostalgia; Englishness; class; violence; crowds; work; adolescence; masculinity; the relationship between the film and the album; the concept/double album; the accompanying book of photographs and Townshend’s text; influences; legacies; Quadrophenia as rock opera; Quadrophenia in the Who’s oeuvre; the self-conscious representation of the Who’s history; the performance of it in the current moment; pills; punks; godfathers; sea; sand; rain; bellboys.

Paper proposals that mix personal with critical, historical, musicological, or cultural-studies analyses are welcome.

Please send short (300-500 word) proposals for 15-20 minute papers and a short bio of yourself to Pam Thurschwell, by 1 December 2013.

Shifting Territories: Modern and Contemporary Poetics of Place

A conference to be held at the Institute of English Studies, Senate House, the University of London on 22nd and 23rd March.

Poets and Keynotes:

  • David Morley (Enchantment, The Invisible Kings) – Poetry reading with images
  • Eóin Flannery (Oxford Brookes University) –  ‘Listen to the Leaves: The Ecologies of Contemporary Irish Poetry’
  • Jo Shapcott (Of Mutability, Tender Taxes, My Life Asleep) – Poetry reading
  • Steven Matthews (University of Reading) will run a training workshop on modern and contemporary poetry research.

Immediately following the final panel sessions of Day 1 of the conference, British Academy Literature Week, in association with the Institute of English Studies and the Royal Society of Literature, presents:
Alice Oswald (A Sleepwalk on the Severn, Woods etc., Dart) – Poetry reading: 6.00pm
Hugh Haughton (University of York) – ‘Poetry and Rivers’: 7.00pm

Muslims, Multiculturalism and Trust: Conference

1 – 2 June 2013. SOAS, University of London.

Recent high-profile interventions by politicians in the West declaring the ‘failure’ of multiculturalism have had, as their very thinly disguised context, mistrust in those Muslim communities that have been growing in Western Europe and the United States since the end of the colonial era. The sense that multiculturalism has been a flawed experiment, that ‘unintegrated’ Muslims are evidence of this, has become a truism of much journalism and media coverage.

This conference brings together leading experts from across the social science/humanities divide to examine the intersections and tensions between different approaches to questions of multi-culturalism and to explore the possibility of developing mutually informative interdisciplinary approaches to shed new light on this topic. The aim of the conference is to analyse current critiques of multiculturalism, measure them against other, perhaps more progressive interpretations, and consider the potential offered by lived experience and creative visions of intercultural exchange to offer new ways of envisaging multicultural experience.
Invited participants include:

  • Rehana Ahmed
  • Valerie Amiraux
  • Claire Chambers
  • Sohail Daulatzai
  • Rumy Hasan
  • Salah Hassan
  • Tony Laden
  • Alana Lentin
  • Nasar Meer
  • Tariq Modood
  • Anshuman Mondal
  • Peter Morey
  • Stephen Morton
  • Jorgen Nielsen
  • Lord Bhikhu Parekh
  • Amina Yaqin.

The conference is part of the ‘Muslims, Trust and Cultural Dialogue’ project.

Admission: the event is free and open to the public.  Booking is
recommend to guarantee a place:

CFP: Uncommon Wealths Riches and Realities

The call for papers for the European Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (EACLALS) 15th Triennial Conference, ‘Uncommon Wealths’ is now open. Deadline: 31 August 2013.

Confirmed speakers include:

Shirley Chew
Tsitsi Dangarembga
Terry Eagleton
Abir Hamdar
Dennis Haskell
Neil Lazarus
John McLeod
Priya Sarukkai Chabria
Kim Scott
Stephen Slemon
Stephanos Stephanides


See the website, here, for more details.


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