Cultural Studies and Literariness--CSA (March 18-20, 2010)--September 1, 2009

full name / name of organization: 
Mathias Nilges / Division on Cultural Studies and Literature
contact email: 

Cultural Studies Association (U.S.)
8th Annual Meeting
University of California, Berkeley
March 18-20, 2010

Division on Cultural Studies and Literature

"Cultural Studies and Literariness—Literature, Medium, Cultural Form"

Deadline for Abstracts (300 words): September 1, 2009 (submission guidelines below).

There are two stereotypical, yet prevalent, versions of articulating the relationship between literary and cultural studies that mobilize the concept of interdisciplinarity. The first position (mainly surrounding early U.S. and Australian Cultural Studies) argues for the need to open up lines of inquiry that have traditionally been barred by the boundaries of disciplinarity (advertising interdisciplinarity as a liberation struggle of sorts). The second position considers the growing popularity of interdisciplinary cultural study a problem and laments the loss of traditional disciplinary skills as a result of a widespread commitment to the blurring of disciplinary boundaries that obfuscates vital distinctions between cultural forms and media. Clearly, neither position is critically very rigorous, nor can or should such overly simplistic approaches to the relationship between literary and cultural studies inform critical praxis or academic policy-making.

This panel intends to recast this discussion in a manner that may yield more productive answers. To be sure, interdisciplinarity should not come at the cost of a waning commitment to the study of cultural form and medium. There is, after all, a difference between film, photography, literature, music etc., and there is a difference between a novel, a poem and a play—and these distinctions matter. Especially, in the context of, for example, contemporary discussions surrounding the need for more meticulous analyses of "literariness" in a global/local context or the frequently proclaimed death of literature, pragmatic, cynical or defeatist announcements of victories of one cultural form or medium over another appear less useful than a renewed commitment to the study of the relationship between literature and other cultural forms and media as it presents itself in the current context. Therefore, instead of focusing on the ways in which cultural studies may or may not have contributed to a lacking commitment to the study of cultural forms and media in the contemporary sociohistorical conjuncture, this panel invites papers that explore the question of "how to do both cultural and literary studies" from a different angle. More specifically, this panel intends to take the rampant proliferation of "new" media in our historical moment as the occasion to arrive at a better understanding of cultural media and forms by studying their dialectical interconnection.

Questions that should stand at the center of such an inquiry include:
• What is this medium called literature and how can cultural
studies as a discipline contribute to our understanding of
literature and aspects of literariness?
• What is the difference between literature and other media
such as painting, music, photography, film and TV as it
presents itself today, and how can contemporary literary
criticism benefit from an engagement with the disciplinary
tools of cultural studies?
• How do form and genre factor into our analysis of cultural
media and how can a dialogue between cultural studies and
literary studies provide us with the basis for more
rigorous analyses thereof?
• How do other contemporary media function within the medium
literature? When and to what end do contemporary authors
feel compelled to mobilize other media within
literature to represent our sociopolitical environment?
• Is the function of cultural media altered when inserted
into another medium (here, we could think, for example, of
the use of various forms of music in literature) and what do
these changing functions tell us about both our definitions
of media and forms as well as our analytical method?

Submit paper abstracts (300 words), A/V equipment requests (if needed) and a brief CV by September 1, 2009 to CSLD co-chair Mathias Nilges (Department of English, St. Francis Xavier University, Canada) at