Contemporary Literature and Its Contexts 1st-2nd July 2010

full name / name of organization: 
Kaye Mitchell, The University of Manchester, UK


Centre for New Writing, The University of Manchester, 1st-2nd July 2010

Confirmed keynotes/participants:
Martin Amis
Prof. Peter Boxall (Sussex)
Prof. Claire Squires (Stirling)
Lisa Allardice (Editor of Guardian Review)

Roundtable on 'The Next Big Thing? The 2010s', featuring Dr. Jeannette Baxter (Anglia Ruskin), Prof. Peter Childs (Gloucestershire), Dr. Sebastian Groes (Roehampton), Dr. David James (Nottingham), and Dr. Sean Matthews (Nottingham).

As Contemporary Literature becomes established as a lively and fruitful discipline within English Literary Studies, increasing numbers of critics are turning their attention afresh to the material contexts of that literature's production, dissemination and reception. Such an attention comprises, amongst other things, a growing awareness of, and interest in, the effects of prize culture, the critical functions and languages of reading groups, the new forms of marketing and new opportunities for reviewing made possible by the internet, the shifting dynamics of the author-reader relationship due to rising numbers of festivals and literary events, and the apparatus of authorship with its increasing focus on celebrity, promotion, branding and the authorial persona. In addition, the popularity of academic creative writing courses raises questions about the relationship between author and critic, and between creative and critical discourse.

The Centre for New Writing at The University of Manchester therefore invites proposals for papers covering any aspect of contemporary literature (1970 to the present) and its material and critical contexts, and welcomes papers which address the complex reciprocity of these material contexts with the forms, themes and genres of contemporary writing. Contemporary Literature is, therefore, viewed as taking place as part of an intricate economy of exchange; it is viewed as an 'industry' – with the various readings and connotations that this term permits.

The conference will seek to bring together critics, practitioners and industry experts from the field of Contemporary Literature and will feature, in addition to traditional academic panels, a number of literary readings and discussions, including a public debate on 'Literature and Violence' involving Martin Amis, Professor of Creative Writing at The University of Manchester.

Topics under consideration in the papers may include (but are not limited to):

•Prize culture in the UK and/or US and questions of value, literariness, etc.

•The publishing industry, marketing techniques, etc.

•The marketing of the 'exotic', marginality, otherness, etc.

•The emergence and/or consolidation of popular genres and sub-genres (and, by implication, markets and readerships), e.g. gay fiction, historical novels, the misery memoir, children's literature, etc.

•The nature and function of reading groups, book clubs, etc., and the construction of the reading group 'reader'.

•Theoretical/critical paradigms for understanding the material contexts of contemporary literature (e.g. the use of Bourdieu in discussions of prize culture).

•Literary blogs, online reviewing, publishing on the internet and other user/creator (i.e. reader/author) generated content.

•The implications of digital culture for the materiality of the book and/or for reading practices.

•The apparatus of authorship, celebrity, new forms of patronage.

•The relationship between the critical and the creative – inside and outside the academy.

•Poetry and fiction's changing contexts and modes of presentation: readings; open mic nights; magazines; e-journals; festivals.

•The relationship between the popular, the literary and the avant-garde in the era of mass publishing.

•Contemporary fiction and poetry's engagement with politics, with questions of culture and subculture, and with the depiction of violence.

•Questions of authorship, gender and genre in contemporary literature.

Please send abstracts of 500 words, or proposals for panels of three linked papers, by 31st March 2010 to Dr. Kaye Mitchell, Lecturer in Contemporary Literature at The University of Manchester. Abstracts should be sent as Word attachments to, and should include details of your current affiliation and a very short author bio.