Forms of Talk - ACLA 2015 Seminar Proposal

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“Forms of Talk” takes into account the multifaceted achievements of “talk,” as distinct from related categories like speech, voice, discourse, dialogue, communication, or even conversation. Our seminar shares a title with sociologist Erving Goffman’s groundbreaking study (1981) on what has been called the “micro-sociology” of everyday interactions. The seminar places an emphasis on oralities that have been considered too commonplace, informal, accidental, idle, wasteful, or inauthentic to be of value. Papers may focus on—but are not limited to—ordinary forms of talk (Gerede, schmooze, chatter, small talk, table talk, badinage); false and unverifiable talk (rumor, gossip, bavardage, slander, hearsay, tall talk, secrets, lies, eavesdropping); talk that binds or supplants action (speech acts, performatives, promises); or the mediated talk of gossip columns, radio and talk shows, and digital social media. In literary studies forms of talk are often absorbed into literature or writing more broadly: literature disciplines or encompasses multiple kinds of discourse (Foucault, Bakhtin); writing is a technology that co-opts orality (Plato, Saussure, Ong). Departing from such traditions, our seminar considers how genres and modes of talk might shape, transform, or regulate literary aesthetics and/or poetics, figure plots and orchestrate the social dynamics of fictive worlds, transmit affective and sensational values, form social identifications and aspirations, or achieve a (counter) politics of their own apart from text. We welcome papers on literature of any period or place, as well as interdisciplinary approaches (e.g., communication and media studies, systems theory, sociology, linguistics). Please contact Amy R. Wong at or Daniel Williams at with a brief explanation of your interests in our proposed seminar.

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