Of Human Bondage: Literatures of Constraint - March 1-2, 2013

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University of Montreal
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9th Annual Université de Montréal English Graduate Conference
March 1 and 2, 2013


Keynote Speaker: Sherry Simon (Concordia University)

Whether employed as a literary trope or as a thematic exploration of circumstance, literature has always examined or been subjected to varying forms of constraint. On the Island of Buru, Pramoedya Ananta Toer composed his Buru Quartet. Georges Perec's novel, A Void, is written entirely without the letter "e". Christian Bök's Eunoia features univocalic chapters, as well as thematic, metric, and rhythmic limitations. Eldridge Cleaver wrote his ground breaking Soul on Ice while imprisoned in California, while Assata Shakur composed her autobiography Assata while in exile from the United States in Cuba.

The 9th annual graduate conference at the Université de Montréal proposes to investigate the stakes of representation and/or utilization of constraint in literature. From American slave narratives, to the experimental poetics of Oulipo, to current political climates of state oppression, constraint, in some form or another, has always been present in literary history.

This colloquium seeks to ask: What is the socially transformative work of literature under pressure? How do literatures about constraint orient our political conscious towards institutions of imprisonment and captivity; systems and languages of oppression; formal conventions; modes of literary production; social etiquette and behaviour; normativity; intersections of race, age, mobility, ability, sex, gender, and sexual orientation? We welcome paper proposals that address the conscious theme through lenses such as:

● Prison literature (fiction, memoir, etc.), literature of captivity
● Slave narratives
● Exile writing
● Narratives of disability and impeded mobility, disability theory
● Migration, exile
● Intersections of racial, sexual and gendered identity
● "Passing" or opacity
● Experimental writing, constraint-based writing, conceptual writing
● Dystopia
● Anti-colonialisms, post-colonialisms
● Mental health, asylums and hospitalization
● Nationalism and language, minority languages in literature, literature of / theories of exiguity
● Translation in literature / literature in translation, translation theory
● "Captive readership"
● Discourse of violence/violence of discourse
● Restrictions of archival and museum spaces
● Banned literature; publishing and editorial constraints

Please send 250-300 word abstracts to egssconference [at] gmail [dot] com. Include your name, affiliation, email address, and a short bio of no more than 75 words. Deadline for submission is January 16, 2013.

Organizing chairs:
Prathna Lor (MA)
Kelly McDevitt (MA)
Alexandra Grenier (PhD)