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"Spectacle": 20th Annual Conference of the English and American Literature Association, Republic of China
full name / name of organization:
English and American Literature Association (EALA) of the Republic of China & English Department, Fu Jen Catholic University
With its etymological roots in the Latin spectare (“to view, to watch”) and spectaculum (“a show”), spectacle indicates a vital, if problematic, point of access to reality, identity, and history. Broadly defined, a spectacle is something exhibited to elicit awe, amusement, nostalgia, curiosity, fear, distraction, or other responses from viewers, and thus mediates the relationships between members of society, moments in history and dimensions of self. When in 1904, Henry Adams suggested the continuity between Gothic cathedrals and world’s fairs as both were media of “infinite energy,” he exposed the diversity and unity of spectacles as cultural forms. Here, while the diversity of the medieval cathedral pointed towards the “unity beyond space,” i.e., God, the diversity of the modern expo testified to overwhelming industrial power. But when, in 1967, Guy Debord viewed modern capitalist society as “the society of the spectacle,” the unifying force of spectacle was one that both masked and defined the capitalist language of class division.
Does spectacle, then, necessarily build its unity upon stereotyping others, or agglomerating spectators as passive consumers? Can spectacle itself—in a parade of demonstrators, projected images, or words and texts—be deployed to resist social domination? In many fields of Anglophone literature, the idea of spectacle has become more carefully elaborated in terms of theory and history, as it has served as a touchstone for critical debates. From Medieval and Renaissance dramas, to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century travel writing, to Victorian museums, concert halls, and expositions, spectacles establish points of contention as well as convergence between elite and popular cultures, between literature and materiality. While Victorian forms of spectacle have persisted to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries (with the world expos in Shanghai in 2010 and in Yeosu, Korea, in 2012), they are giving way to electronic media that bring an exhilarating but unsettling immediacy to the Shakespearean adage that “all the world’s a stage.” It comes as no surprise, then, that theorists from Guy Debord to Fredric Jameson have defined the experience of consumer capitalism as fundamentally spectacular, demanding new paradigms for conceptualizing the future.
We welcome papers and panel discussions on spectacle and its relationship to the fields of English and American literature and culture. Possible topics may include (but are not limited to):
Proposals for complete panels are welcome. Conference language is either Chinese or English. Interested scholars are invited to submit a 500-word abstract (including keywords) as well as a brief CV to the following address: G20@mail.fju.edu.tw