SPACES/MEMORIES: the 2nd Colloquium of the Canadian Literature Centre, University of Alberta. 14-15 October 2011

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Canadian Literature Centre, University of Alberta
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Confirmed Keynote Speakers: J. Edward Chamberlin (University of Toronto) and Sherry Simon (Concordia University)

As we saw in the first conference of the Canadian Literature Centre in the Spring of 2009, Canadian literature is becoming exceptionally difficult to conceive of in terms of national literature. Canadian literature still has its canons, milestones and founders, but its history and its potential are nevertheless unfolding as a series of forms that move from a self-conscious, deliberate interculturality to an often unconscious, tacit transculturality. Beyond this apparent heterogeneity, we saw the emergence of two notions that have not been lost on researchers gathered for the first CLC colloquium: space and memory. These are fields of inquiry that, in order to do justice to their omnipresence in the literary corpus, it seems to us wise to put in the plural. Thus we propose: spaces, memories.

With their breadth of scope, these two fields prompt a multiplicity of questions about, and responses to, Canadian literature. Thus, we should put "Canadian Literature" in the plural as well, since as we could see from the proceedings of the first conference published by the CLC (Transplanting Canada: Seedlings CLC Studies, vol. 1, 2009), spaces and memories seem like appropriate notions to explore with a view to their expansion, their extension.

In thinking of the importance of space, place and frontiers in Canadian literature and criticism, this conference will engage with the imaginative powers of Canada's domestic and global geographies. Topics that might be addressed include: urban space in literature and the figure of the literary city; geo- and eco- politics and criticisms; the material space of Canadian publishing, including corporate histories, public funding and censorship, archives, festivals, and the promotion of Canadian literature overseas; representations of frontier spaces in early Canadian literature and the persistence of the frontier in modern and contemporary literatures; memorialized spaces and literatures of remembering; cosmopolitanism; regional spaces in Canadian literary production; the international perceptions of Canadian literature along with the elastic boundaries of what is considered Canadian; constructions and perceptions of "the North" or the "americanity"; borders, passports, migration, refugees, and the construction of illegal cross-border movements; racialised geographies; space and the representation of a national past, present, or future.

Memory unspools as something that is both diachronic and synchronic. Diachronically, the great autobiographical tendency that goes across the whole of contemporary western literature, and is only getting stronger in contemporary life and literary production, is a breeding ground for the subjective romance. Bildungsromans, family histories, self-examinations via collective identities, migration and belonging, integration or the loss of inherited memory, migration and immigration narratives all help to reclaim a trans-generational or maternal connection to the country of origin. They encompass French and English poetry and prose, all the while constructing a transcultural and trans-subjective "thickness." Synchronically, memory's territory is constructed in relation to exterior, foreign, faraway places, which remain contemporary. This territory then becomes an attempt at writing a history of the present, of creating a shared way of experiencing time. It's thus an echo of the memory process itself, made out of other languages, other memories, and other imagined countries, of journeys between the country, the landscape, and their imaginary counterparts. All of these approaches invite us to diversify the gaze we cast on Canadian literature, or to make Canadian literature the laboratory of a renewed reading of these approaches.

The CLC invites all interested researchers, in Canada or abroad, to send us their proposal. The Centre is open to all display and theoretical approaches, and a special consideration for the following areas of research, which will be at the heart of the Centre's activities for the next three years:

1. Transcultural and transnational thought
2. Canadian comparative literature
3. Cultural production
4. Francophone literature of western Canada

Please send a proposal (150-300 words), along with a short bio, to:, by 15 March 2011.