CFP - "States of Suspension": UChicago Graduate Conference, Nov 15-16, 2012

full name / name of organization: 
University of Chicago, Departments of English and Art History


"States of Suspension: Politics and Histories, Aesthetics and Affects"

November 15 – 16, 2012

University of Chicago, Departments of English and Art History

Deadline: August 1, 2012 /

"....the state of being suspended, a looking or listening so rapt that it is an exemption from ordinary conditions, that it becomes a suspended temporality, a hovering out of time...It implies the possibility of a fixation, of holding something in wonder or contemplation, in which the attentive subject is both immobile and ungrounded. But at the same a suspension is also a cancellation or an interruption, and I wanted here to indicate a disturbance, even a negation of perception itself..." - Jonathan Crary, Suspensions of Perception

"We need to live in a state of suspended animation like a work of art, in a state of enchantment. We have to succeed in loving so greatly that we live outside of time, detached."
- Steiner in La Dolce Vita, Fellini

Suspension is a state of exception, anticipation, or absorption. It hovers, pauses, interrupts, creating a liminal space often outside historical time and physical place. In political terms, suspension indexes the revocation of legal protections or rights of citizenship, the dissolution of recognized forms of governance, and the adoption of emergency measures during times of crisis. Since the 18th century, aesthetic encounters have been conceived of as a suspension of one's understanding before the sensible experience of the artwork--a convention retained in the institution of the museum or gallery. While theatrical performances bracket reality for the duration of their staging, the photograph, like the ekphrastic moment in a text, enacts a suspension of time by isolating an image from its historical index. Scholastic practices like periodization, formalism, taxonomizing, etc. are means of extracting and suspending moments and objects under study. Religious discourses conceptualize states of liminality and the kinds of knowledge they can impart in terms of pilgrimage, purgatory, and penance. Affective experiences characteristic of everyday life--from boredom, deferment and waiting to captivation and anticipation--can be understood as sites producing forms of suspension.

This conference, to be held on November 15 – 16, 2012 at the University of Chicago, aims to query suspension in all its valences. We welcome submissions from disciplines across the humanities that treat states of suspension located in any time, place, or medium of study.

Please send 250-300 word abstracts to by August 1, 2012. Presentations should be no longer than 20 minutes in length (8-10 double-spaced pages).

Examples of possible topics include:

• Christ on the cross; Narratives of purgatory, pilgrimage, or confession; Epistemologies of conversion

• The Virgilian or Dantean underworld; archaeology of necropoli and tombs

• Periods of political and cultural change (eg. decolonization; the transition in late Antiquity to a Roman Christian majority)

• Wartime; the state of exception; rights discourses; law and citizenship; the Polis and the public sphere; geopolitical states of occupation; occupation as a suspension of discourse

• Literal suspensions of the work of art; the frame; the institution of the museum or academia; the discourses of criticism and art history; the formalization of the tableau

• States of immersion, trance, spiritualism, hypnosis, or mass identification; mobs and crowds; suspended animation; Frankenstein

• Media of/as suspension (eg. photography, theatre, cinema, performance etc.)

• Trauma; the space of the psychoanalytic encounter; ruins and memorials

• Ekphrasis; temporalities of image and text; graphic narratives; narrative theory

• States of suspense; boredom; waiting, attentiveness; narrative expectation; continuation; duration; endurance art

• Suspensions of disbelief; the genre of the pastoral; utopias; the theatrum mundi

• Quotation, anachronism, commentary, exegesis, marginalia, annotation, and white space

• Architectures of suspension; the blueprint; urban planning; the suburbs; utopias

• Immersive new media; gaming; arcades; shopping malls; the archive; networks; the Cloud

• After the crash; recession and recovery; states of perpetual crisis