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LitPop: Writing and Popular Music
Friday 24th June 2011, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne
Going beyond well-rehearsed comparisons between Dylan and Keats, this conference aims to bring fresh perspectives to debates about the forms and functions of popular music in relation to literature, exploring connections and conflicts between writing (fiction and non-fiction, past and present), and popular music (modern, contemporary or otherwise). Where cultural value was once sought for popular music through analogy with literature, or popular music and literary texts were seen as incompatible, writers and critics now borrow the demotic idioms of pop. Why?
Keynote speakers include:
• Paul Farley (Professor of Poetry, Lancaster University, award-winning author of The Ice Age and Tramp in Flames, and The Electric Polyolbion)
• Gerry Smyth (Reader in Cultural History, Liverpool John Moores University, author of Music in Contemporary British Fiction: Listening to the Novel)
• Sheila Whiteley (Professor Emeritus, University of Salford, editor of Sexing the Groove: Popular Music and Gender)
The organisers invite scholars and students working in literary and cultural studies, music, film, creative writing, history, philosophy, and related disciplines to submit 200-word abstracts for 20 minute papers relating to any of the following themes and questions by 1 February 2011. Contributors are free to interpret and address these as broadly as they deem appropriate:
• How has writing past and present been influenced by popular music, and vice versa? How have ‘literary’ texts appropriated the sounds and idioms of popular music? How have popular musicians invoked ‘literary’ texts, imagery and motifs in their work?
• How does writing construct or represent popular music cultures (fans, collectors, consumers, subcultures), industries (performers, moguls, producers), or histories and mythologies (through nostalgia, pastiche and memory)?
• What happens when a popular musician becomes a novelist or poet (or vice versa)?
• What critical frameworks are appropriate for the analysis of popular music and fiction or non-fiction?
• Can we categorise writing in terms of the genres of popular music? Is there such a thing as a ‘jazz’, ‘hip-hop’, or ‘punk’ novel or poem?
• How do different genres of writing represent popular music differently? What is the function of the ‘literary soundtrack’ (charts and ‘mixtapes’ in novels, for example)? Are music criticism, journalism and biography ‘literary’? Can we speak of a ‘narratology’ of music biography, music journalism, blogging, fanzines or fan fiction? Should we listen to popular songs as ‘texts’?
• How do class-based, sexualised, gendered and racialized identities inform ‘litpop’?
• In what ways have adaptations of literary texts in film or elsewhere employed popular music? How have representations of popular music (in music videos, for example) referenced literary forms? And how do songs, compilations or soundtracks brand writers and their work?
• Does relating popular music and literature confirm or disturb ideas of cultural hierarchy and status?
• To what extent are the politics and poetics of ‘literature’ and popular music complementary or conflicted?
• Given technological innovations, do writing and popular music share equally compromised or empowering modes of production and reception?
The conference organisers – Rachel Carroll (Teesside University), Adam Hansen (Northumbria University), and Mel Waters (Northumbria University) – will be submitting an edited collection of selected papers for publication to the Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series.
Please submit 200-word abstracts for 20 minute papers plus a 50-word author profile to: email@example.com by 1 February 2011.