What if things were different? What if academic ideas could be expressed in units of 40,000 words, rather than in units of 9000 or 90,000? What if we organized literary study around, not the long eighteenth century or the nation-state, but around the years 1740-1840, or an ecological or physiographic region? What if we imagined that the division of humanities inquiry into disciplines, or the structure of the PhD, looked radically different? The American Comparative Literature Association invites proposals to participate in its experimental conference, ACLX. ACLX Otherwise, the spring 2015 conference, will be held on the campus of the University of South Carolina, Columbia, at the Inn at USC, the weekend of February 5-7, 2015.
Concepts or practices developed in and around ACL(x) are designed to potentially affect the ACLA’s official spring conference, as well as make their ways into journals, workshops, and individual or collaborative acts of scholarship or conversation, including the ACLA’s current State of the Discipline Report. Thanks to the generous support of the University of South Carolina, and its Comparative Literature program, Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, College of Arts and Sciences and Provost’s office, lodging and most food for conference presenters will be free. The organizers specifically invite presentations on the following topics, with 250-word proposals due by September 30, 2014.
Periodization: What do we think history is, that it makes periods? What do we think periods are, that we organize the profession around them? It’s easy to point out the challenges with existing schemes of periodization – but can we imagine alternatives that are, if not better, at least useful for something? What would literary study look like if we came up with alternative periodizations, whether on a national/linguistic basis, a regional basis, or for the planet as a whole? Participants in this panel are invited to share in advance an alternative periodization for some scale of literary study, and to use their allotted time on the panel to discuss, explore and debate their scheme. Please send abstracts to Alexander Beecroft (ABeecrof@mailbox.sc.edu).
Queering Comparative Literature: What happens when Comparative Literature meets Queer Theory? How might we theorize the comparative gesture across both of these fields at once? What do Queer Theory’s border crossings offer to the practice of comparative literary today? Participants in this panel are invited to think about the intersections between Comp lit. and Queer Theory taking seriously the interdisciplinary, transnational, and transformative dimensions of each. The idea is not to create definitive disciplinary statements but rather to think about how Queering Comp Lit opens new avenues for thought in both fields. Please send a 250 word abstract and short bio to Jessica Berman (email@example.com)
“Soft Power”: The State of the Discipline vs. the Department of State, or the geopolitics of comparative literatures
While the US government has become keen, particularly in the post-9/11 era, to encourage the instruction of historically understudied languages in institutions of higher learning, it has also continued its equally historic practice of issuing travel warnings, often imposing travel restrictions, for regions deemed to be “high risk” areas. These warnings and restrictions have not been without consequences for students, both undergraduate and graduate, and faculty researchers with an interest in the impacted areas, whether with regard to study abroad programs, academic exchanges, or scholarly research. At the same time, the US Department of State has proposed, under the rubric of its “soft power” doctrines, the critical importance of “understanding” other cultures, including their literary history and contemporary knowledge production, even at times controversially “embedding” scholars in its diplomatic and military ranks. Meanwhile, US universities, encouraged by the expansion of global scholarship, have been establishing partner programs with national educational institutions around the world, from Latin America, to the Gulf, to China, often incurring restrictions imposed by the host countries on otherwise longstanding protocols of academic freedom, human rights, and social justice. What are the consequences for the “state of the discipline” of comparative literature of these apparent political and intellectual contradictions and compromises? How have different geographical regions of inquiry and instruction been variously impacted? And what might be learned from their respective responses to these 21st century geopolitical pressures and opportunities? Please send abstracts to Barbara Harlow (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Publishing: What is the best way to share research and engage with other scholars? How do institutional structures produce new opportunities and constraints to move beyond the traditional monograph and journal article? In practical terms, how do we make alternative publications meaningful to the profession? Please send abstracts to Michael Gibbs Hill (email@example.com).
Graduate Programs: The recent MLA report on the state of graduate education in literature was long on vague suggestions, but short on specific institutional recommendations. This panel invites current or former Directors of Graduate Studies to reinvent the graduate program from the ground up. No mandate for seminars, exams, or dissertations; they might be included, of course, but ought to be justified within the framework of the only mandatory goals: to be institutionally possible, and to prepare students for scholarship and employment in or around literature. Please send a description of your relevant experience, and a paragraph describing some basic ideas for the program you’ve imagined, to Eric Hayot (firstname.lastname@example.org).