[UPDATE] Visual Memory: Mind, Monument, Metaphor (Proposals due Jan 15, 2012; MadLit Conference March 1-3 , 2012)

full name / name of organization: 
University of Wisconsin-Madison English Graduate Student Association
contact email: 
uwmadlit@gmail.com

The Graduate Student Association of the University of Wisconsin-Madison English Department is pleased to invite papers for the 8th annual MadLit conference to be held March 1-3, 2012. This year’s theme, “Visual Memory: Mind, Monument, Metaphor” seeks to investigate the role that vision plays in the creation, recollection, and use of memory as well as to challenge the relationship between optic experience and the visual idioms often used to describe these processes.

These relationships have been fraught at least since Aristotle’s characterization of memory as a seal imprinted on the wax of the mind by sensory perception. Their instability has been highlighted recently not only by what WJT Mitchell has called “the pictorial turn” in humanistic studies but also by a number of current events. The dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. monument in Washington, DC, for instance, has been dogged by controversy over whether the statue adequately resembles the man it commemorates and over its inscription, missing an “if” clause in its claim that “[King] is a drum major for justice,” which poet Maya Angelou has claimed wrongly characterizes the man as arrogant. Though all visitors to the site will have ostensibly similar sensory experiences, representational power of the experience itself is unfixed. Though the visual is intended to act as a “repository” for memory, anxieties surround the way that King’s legacy may be contingent upon the memories of those who encounter it, as well as the way the visual conversely takes an active role in shaping the memories of those encounterers and participates in the way that memory gets invoked for political, cultural, or personal ends.

The interplay between the visual and the memorial of course also has ramifications for literary production (Why do visual metaphors for memory and writing persist? Why does Shakespeare seem relieved that his poetry will enjoy longevity “so long as…eyes can see”?) However, these considerations demand engagement with other fields of inquiry: art, linguistics, neuroscience, media studies, politics, and others.

We are currently soliciting proposals for 15-20 minute paper presentations and 3-person panels on any aspect of the relationship between visualization and memory. We particularly encourage submissions from those whose work makes use of interdisciplinary perspectives to speak to multiple fields. Proposals for non-traditional presentation formats are also welcome.
Possible considerations include:
-What is the role of perception systems in the recall of memory?
-What is the relationship between language comprehension and visual experience?
-How do maps act as memory-makers?
-How do memorials act as sites of conflict or contestation?
-How do memory and/or memorials challenge ideas of the “post-human” and vice versa?
-How does the archive act as “prosthetic” memory? How is it denotative vs. connotative?
-How and why does the media manipulate memory?
-What is the relationship between longevity and “imaging” or iconography?
-What is the role of ekphrasis in the making of history?
-What is the relationship between seeing and knowing? Between visuality and literacy? Between image and text?

Please submit a 250-word abstract to the Graduate Student Association at uwmadlit@gmail.com by January 15, 2012. Accepted papers will be announced by January 20. In your proposal, please indicate any A/V requirements. The conference will feature two keynote speakers TBA.

PANELS: If you would like your proposal to be considered for any of the following panels, please indicate this in your submission.

Occupy Memory Lane: This panel seeks papers that engage with questions of how cityscapes and embodied, sensory experience play a role in political upheaval. Places of conflict or tragedy are often marked by lasting, physical reminders: Belfast’s murals, Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem, even Zuccoti Park’s tent village. How do these physical spaces create or advocate for specific kinds of cultural memory? What is the relationship between visual experience and preservation? How do memories of visual experience affect the process of reconciliation or the perpetuation of conflict? How are photographs of these places invoked in debate?

Being seen seen (by the Animal): In The Animal That Therefore I Am, Jacques Derrida considers the implications of being "seen seen" by an animal. This panel asks: how do we see animals? How do animals see us? What are the consequences (philosophical, political, ethical) of acknowledging the visual encounter with an animal? How does investigating representations of visual encounter with the animal throughout history alter our sense of disciplinary memory? Of “human”ism?

Re-Imagining Personal Memories in “Serious” Research: In “Re-Valuing the Personal Narrative: Developing Metaphor and Critical Thinking in the Composition Classroom,” Eileen Crowe bemoans the “pressures” she feels in her department to “de-emphasize the personal in favor of the ‘scholarly’” (36). Her frustration with a field that mistrusts personal narratives echoes similar concerns in rhetoric/composition research and in literary studies. If anything, the space for personal memories and visions appears even smaller outside of the classroom, as it has been sidelined in a disciplinary struggle for rigor and legitimacy. This panel invites papers that explore intersections between “the personal” and “the scholarly” in academic research. Does the genre of academic writing invite or reject individual memories? Why might a scholar’s ethnicity, gender, or professional rank impact the narratives that are welcome in published research? Are only certain kinds visions or images licensed in the profession? In other words, do I have to be Derrida to talk about my cat?

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