At Face Value: Re-thinking Surfaces, Friends of English Graduate Student Conference at UCLA

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Call for Papers, At Face Value: Re-thinking Surfaces
Friends of English Graduate Student Conference, UCLA
Friday, May 31, 2013 at UCLA

Keynote speakers: Professor Rachel Lee (UCLA), Professor Daniel Tiffany (USC)

Sir Peter: Aye, ever improving himself!--Mr. Surface, Mr. Surface...Well, well, that's proper; and you make even your screen a source of knowledge...
Joseph Surface: Oh, yes, I find great use in that screen.
-Richard Brinsley Sheridan, The School for Scandal (IV.3)

What does it mean to take something "at face value?" Recent literary scholarship has attempted to reclaim the notion of "surface" in the face of critical tendencies to relegate surface to the superficial and therefore the inconsequential. Such scholarly approaches have taken a number of different forms, ranging from post-suspicious inquiry (Felski) and reparative reading (Sedgwick), to distance reading (Moretti), object-oriented criticism (Latour), and systems theory (Luhmann). Inspired by this recent critical turn, this conference proposes a reorientation of our cultural predisposition towards depth. "Resurfacing" the surface seeks the destabilization of binaries such as true/false, spiritual/corporeal, eternal/ephemeral, complex/simple. Surfaces have been relegated to the realm of the slight, the shallow, the casual or unexamined, the insignificant. We ask: how can we challenge, disrupt, and reconfigure the idea of the surface as we have come to understand it, and what implications for the field of literary study would such a critical move have?

A critical reconsideration or re-theorization demands investigation into broad-ranging literary representations and treatments of surfaces. For example, can the notion of the surface productively counter orthodox understandings of interiority, allegory, symbol, or metaphor? How do literary texts contend with surface (and depth) in relation to categories of identification like race, gender, or disability? How might a serious consideration of surface help us (re)value less popular genres? What is the relationship between surface, bodies, and materiality? What about between surface and wholeness? How does an examination of surface help us to negotiate our own affective attachments to texts?

These are just a few possible lines of inquiry, so we welcome any papers bearing creative relationships to the theme of surfaces, including (but not limited to):

Allegory, symbol, and metaphor
Performance Studies
Environment, geology, & geography
Things, objects, & material culture
Fashion and consumer culture
Critical race studies
Disability studies
Pop culture
Popular genres
Visual culture
Critical approaches such as surface reading, neophenomenology, aesthetic theory, eco-criticism, affect theory, systems theory, and distance reading

Paper presentations should be between 15-20 minutes long. Please email conference abstracts (250-300 words) to by MARCH 1, 2013.

*We would like to acknowledge that our conference shares lines of inquiry with that of our colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, "Between Surface and Depth" (MadLit 2013) taking place February 28-March 1. We very much encourage and welcome papers that may wish to continue conversations begun at MadLit!*