"(Dis)realities and the Literary and Cultural Imagination" April 5-6, 2013

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Graduate English Organization Conference, University of Maryland, College Park
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What is (dis)reality? In The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality, Michael Heim notes the multiple attempts to define reality in Western history. The effort to delineate reality begins with Plato's notion of ideal forms as the "really real," through Aristotle's emphasis on material substance. Reality in medieval times is mirrored in the shimmer of religious symbols; efforts to catalogue the real mark the Renaissance, and the atomic bomb defines the reality of the Modern era. In contrast, material representations of the "real" are often surreal, intangible, and unregulated in Latin American, Caribbean and African literatures and cultures e.g. the work of Gabriel García Márquez, Ben Okri amongst many others. In all these examples, perceptions and definitions of reality rely on a defined set of cultural codes.

These cultural codes continue to challenge efforts to move perceptions and interpretations of reality beyond their fixed boundaries. For example, in "Painting as a Libidinal Set-Up," Jean-François Lyotard's postmodern notion of material art as a conduit for unregulated desire and transformative sensation is an attempt to move reality beyond its boundaries into (dis)reality. However, as he points out, it remains impossible to escape the regulating effects of the "real" in the form of military power, capital, and language. If, as Lyotard suggests, (dis)reality is a principle that undermines what we commonly refer to as reality and the discourses that surround it, how is this principle expressed in literature and culture?

(Dis)reality is an imaginative category we would like to open to interpretation within various disciplines. This conference seeks to explore Western and non-Western notions of (dis)reality and its relationship to realities in various cultural and literary imaginaries. Questions to consider include, what do we mean when we say "(dis)reality"? Who and what delineate the constraints of (dis)reality? In what ways has "reality" been defined, upheld, or employed? In what ways has a "reality" been challenged, undermined, brought into play, and (dis)located by various writers and cultures? How do we understand the histories of Western and non-Western realities in the Digital Age?

Submissions that engage with all aspects of the title are invited. Presentations of creative work in Fiction, Poetry, Drama, Dance, Arts and Film are welcome. Topics of potential essays can include, but are not limited to:

• Fictive spaces and temporalities
• Cultural (re)interpretations of reality
• Pedagogy and reality
• Rhetorical Realities
• Utopias and Dystopias
• (Post)colonial conflicts over and/or redefinitions of reality
• Discursive constructions of race, gender, or sexuality in various historical eras
• Transnational identities and literatures
• Subaltern, displaced, or dislocated realities
• Mediating reality in drama: reading tragedy or comedy
• Art and performance as representation or imaginative possibility
• Reality and history through film, literature, or other artistic mediums
• Virtual reality

The conference committee invites proposals for fifteen-minute papers from a broad range of disciplines and theoretical backgrounds. Proposals on creative work must be a short sample from an original composition. Panel submissions (3-4 participants) are highly encouraged. Please limit individual abstracts to 300 words and panel abstracts to 500 words. Full papers may accompany abstracts. And include three keywords at the end of the abstract to assist panel formation.

Abstracts are due December 7, 2012 and should be e-mailed to conference.geo@gmail.com

Conference Website: http://www.disrealitiesconference.blogspot.com

Plenary Speakers:
Dr. Matthew Kirschenbaum of the Department of English and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities at UMD, College Park.
Dr. Vessela Valiavitcharska of the Department of English at UMD, College Park.
Dr. Christina Hanhardt of the Department of American Studies at UMD, College Park.
Dr. Faedra Carpenter of the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies at the UMD, College Park.