'The idea of influence in American literature', 31 March 2010

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English Faculty, University of Oxford, UK
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This one-day conference aims to ask whether American literature might fruitfully be viewed as a product of its influences, and if so, whether it can โ€“ or should โ€“ be considered separately from these influences. This question leads to two further areas of consideration: firstly, how the fluidity of American culture, informed by America's history of immigration and its complex demographic make-up, has helped construct American literature up to the present day; and secondly, how far American literature contains, excludes or even dams the constant in-flowing of cultural sources.

The conference should attract a wide range of speakers, each working on the role of 'influence', broadly interpreted, in the construction of American literature (and literary culture) from its beginnings to the present day. 'Influence' might not only refer to literary influence in the Bloomian sense, but might also be applied to considerations of cultural influx (and reflux), to an assessment of the impact of political or ethnic concerns, or to an analysis of how popular cultural models have shaped American literary culture. Suitable subjects for papers might include (but are not limited to): transatlantic or transnational influences, the classical tradition in American literature, American literature and travel, or the idea of 'influence' in relation to globalisation, media, or disease ('influenza' in its digital and pathological forms). Graduate students are very welcome.

We are delighted to announce that the plenary speakers will be Dr. Nick Selby, Head of the School of American Studies at the University of East Anglia, and Dr. Stephen Shapiro, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick.

Proposals for 15โ€“20 minute papers, of approximately 250 words, should be emailed to the conference organiser, Dr. Tara Stubbs (tara.stubbs@spc.ox.ac.uk) by 20 December 2009. Papers will be divided into panels of three speakers, so suggestions for panels will also be welcome.