ACLA: Forms of Floods. Submission Deadline November 13

full name / name of organization: 
Joseph Jeon/University of San Diego, Benjamin Widiss/Princeton University

Floods represent chaos: the overwhelming not just of everyday life but of entire prevailing natural and social orders, the destruction of boundaries and moorings, the triumph of formlessness and flux. This seminar examines, then, the challenges — both formal and ethical — entailed in representing floods. We will investigate the technical modes that attempt to formulate something often defined against form itself, and, at the same time, the moral implications of rendering natural disaster aesthetically. We will further ask what parallels and divergences we might discern between attempts to reassert form rhetorically, and those to reassert social and physical structures, in floods' wake. What relations between the docility of water and of language in quotidian use, their conformity to expectation, and the moments in which they resist or wholly swamp their containers? And do these equations begin to change as "acts of God" and "natural contingency" increasingly give way to "anthropogenic" accounts of floods' origins?

This seminar invites papers that explore the various ways these questions manifest themselves to and in creative art, ranging from the Bible, Gilgamesh, and other foundational epics, through Waterland, Waterworld, and the many works now addressing Hurricane Katrina. We are equally interested in media treatments of the Asian Tsunami of 2004, the Midwestern Floods of 2008, the Three-Gorges Dam, and other such concerns, both contemporary and historical. We welcome papers placing themselves anywhere on the spectrum from ethical to representational inquiries, but we are particularly interested in those that combine these approaches.

Panel for 2010 American Comparative Literature Association Annual Meeting
April 1 through 4, 2010, New Orleans
Application Deadline: November 13, 2009
Submit proposal to
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