The Politics of Form: April 22, 2011 Columbia University Graduate Student Conference

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19th-Century Colloquium, Department of English, Columbia University
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The Politics of Form: 2011 Graduate Student Conference
Columbia University Nineteenth-Century Colloquium
Friday, April 22th, 2011

Keynote Speaker: Caroline Levine


In recent years, Victorian studies have seen a resurgence of interest in literary form and formalist criticism. However, these renewed formal interests do not represent a simple swing of the critical pendulum. Rather than retreating from historicism, current critical models seek to amend and complicate New Historicist practices by combining them with examinations of genre, aesthetics, and other formal concerns. Recent work along these lines has been characterized by an attentiveness to form in the service of historically specific claims and an interest in the historical specificity of nineteenth-century literary forms and their cultural meaning. Correspondingly, the conscious significance of literary form and genre to the Victorians themselves is a topic ripe for further examination.

This conference seeks to explore what is particularly at stake for Victorian literary studies in this turn towards form. In particular, we encourage papers on the integration of formalist and historicist praxis, but we also welcome papers exploring the future of either field. Possible topics include but are not limited to:

Nineteenth-century literary criticism
Aesthetics and aestheticism
Social custom, conventions, and etiquette
Form and the marriage plot
Reading practices
Economic and political systems as "forms"
Genre theory, theory of the novel
Historical fiction
Formalism and feminism
Queer studies after Foucault
Historicism today, formalism today, New Formalism
Symptomatic and surface reading; close vs. distant reading
Book theory
Digitization and Victorian archives
Quantitative literary criticism (statistics, graphs, diagrams, charts, etc.)
E-texts and reading practices

Abstracts of 300 words should be sent to Anna Clark via email at by February 6th. Please bear in mind that final papers should take between 15 and 20 minutes (maximum) to deliver.

Proposals for panels (comprising three speakers) are welcome—please submit the title and a brief description of the panel as well as abstracts for the individual papers.