CFP: [Graduate] Avatars: Personae, Heteronyms, Pseudonyms. Stanford University Comp Lit (Apr. 10 & 11, 2009)

full name / name of organization: 
Chris Donaldson
contact email: 

Department of Comparative Literature, Stanford University
3rd Annual Graduate Student Conference
April 10-11, 2009


"Every individual human being, one may say, carries within him,
potentially and prescriptively, an ideal man, the archetype of a human
being, and it is his life's task to be, through all his changing
manifestations, in harmony with the unchanging unity of this ideal."
  --Friedrich Schiller, Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man (1795)


Who can see us? How do we make ourselves visible, or readable, to the
world at large? How do we portray or define ourselvesâ€" to ourselves?

The Sanskrit word "avatara" means "descent"; an avatar, in Hindu
theology, embodies the descent of a deity from a higher to a lower
realm. The term has recently been repurposed for use in online
interaction and gamingâ€" notably in the popular online multi-player
environment Second Lifeâ€" itself marking a kind of descent from the
hieratic realm of theology into the de-divinized world of the Internet.
The virtualization of certain areas of our societies has provided new
fora for experimenting with and reflecting on the images we construct and
project, the personae we mimic and adopt, and the ways in which we
interact with each other. That said, virtual culture may merely highlight
issues that have emerged in different forms through visual art and
literature both transnationally and transtemporally: for example, the use
of gender-altering pseudonyms as a method of alternative self-
representation; the adoption of myriad personae as a tool in artistic
creation and performance; and the veneration of icons both religious and

For the third annual Comparative Literature Graduate Student Conference
at Stanford University, we propose to trace the various descents,
ascents, descendants and ascendancies of the avatar, as well as the
various representational iterations of alternate or constructed personae,
such as pseudonyms. Topics include, but are by no means limited to the
following suggestions:

• Oracles and prophets
• Icons as objects, icons as people
• Masks
• Poetic personae
• Literary hoaxes; invented authors and their reception
• Ghostwriters
• Female writers with male pseudonyms and vice versa
• Gender, performance, corporeality, drag, self-portraiture
• Digital personae; dystopic/utopic movement toward the virtual
• Archetypes (Jungian, etc.)
• "Personality" or celebrity self-construction, "avatars" of human
        ideals, cultural "icon" worship, public personae and the culture
        of self-representation
• Orality vs. textuality; textual history & hermeneutics
• Hiding/obscuring vs. highlighting/exaggerating


Presentations should be limited to 20 minutes in length (about 7-9 double-
spaced pages).

Please send abstracts of 500 words or less by January 10, 2009 to

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Received on Thu Jan 08 2009 - 11:04:13 EST