UPDATE: [Graduate] Writing War: Literary Explorations of Conflict (McGill Graduate Conference)

full name / name of organization: 
Caroline Krzakowski

“Writing War”: Literary Explorations of Conflict
McGill University, Montréal
14th Annual Graduate Conference on Language and Literature
March 28-30, 2008

The English Graduate Students Association of McGill University is pleased
to announce its 14th annual Graduate Conference on Language and
Literature, and is seeking papers on the theme “‘Writing War’: Literary
Explorations of Conflict”. The conference will be held in Montréal,
Canada, on March 28 - 30, 2008.


The conference title, “Writing War”, is taken from Margot Norris’s book
Writing War in the Twentieth Century (Charlottesville, VA: UP of
Virginia, 2000), in which the author explores the failure of twentieth
century literature to put an end to the global conflicts that continued
even after the end of the Cold War. Now well into the twenty-first
century, where global conflict abounds, the question “to what end do we
write war?” continues to be asked of academics and the public alike.
With this question in mind, the conference seeks to understand and
reconcile the many roles of war literature: as historical documentation,
memorialization, propaganda, and even as an expression of agency.
Although Norris’s book focuses on twentieth century literature, we invite
and encourage papers about writing as early as Beowulf, on a broad array
of topics relating to war and literature.

Possible topics include:

- militarism in literature
- literature as propaganda
- mythic battles
- war and the construction/representation of gender
- war and the representation of personhood
- the representation of war in science-fiction
- literature as commemoration or memorialization
- women and war
- narratives of the homefront
- narratives of shell-shock and other trauma
- artistic reactions to war
- epic as genre
- wartime ephemera as literary text
- testimonials, archives, and/or diary writing as documents of war
- war literature as nation-building project
- reportage of war
- recuperation of lost voices through war literature
- the ethics of writing war

Please send proposals (300 words) for the General Call for Papers via
email to either Michèle at michele.rackham_at_mail.mcgill.ca
or Caroline at caroline.krzakowski_at_mail.mcgill.ca by January 15, 2008.



>From Widows to Warriors: Representations of Women in
Medieval English War Narratives

While medieval English narratives treating the subject of war may
initially appear to describe an almost exclusively male sphere, many
offer depictions of female characters that contribute in a variety of
ways to the narratives’ representation of war. From Anglo-Saxon poetry’s
warrior-saints Juliana, Judith and Elene to the weeping widows and
conquered Amazons of Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale, women fulfill several roles
in medieval English narratives’ portrayal of physical warfare, from
helpless bystanders to ruthless instigators. Additionally, as the
romantic (sub)plots of chivalric epics such as Malory’s Morte Darthur
suggest, war narratives may feature women as participants in more
figurative warsâ€"emotional, psychological, or ethicalâ€"that complement or
contrast accounts of conventional martial conflict.
This panel seeks papers exploring the representation of women and war in
any period of medieval English narrative literature (poetry or prose).
Potential guiding questions include:
-What roles do women occupy in medieval English war narratives, and to
what end(s)?
-How do medieval English writers use female characters (central or
peripheral) to develop their representations and/or views of war?
-To what extent are medieval English writers’ depictions of women and war
affected by factors such as generic conventions, the nature of the war
depicted, and/or the writers’ particular context (social, political,
religious or historical)?

Possible areas of examination include (but are not limited to):
-Women as leaders/makers/opponents of war (conventional or figurative)
-The role of wives, lovers, mothers or widows in war narratives
-The role of religion in the depiction of women in war narratives
(saints, goddesses, etc.)

Abstracts of no more than 300 words may be sent to Chelsea Honeyman
(chelsea.honeyman_at_mail.mcgill.ca) no later than 15 January, 2008.


Home and Homeland: Writing Conflict and the Domestic Realms

Nancy Armstrong’s groundbreaking book Desire and Domestic Fiction: A
Political History of the Novel claims that the novel “not only contained
disorder within the household, but … also gave it female form” (183).
This panel explores the relationship between violent conflict and the
domestic both in terms of gender roles and family relationships and in
relation to the production of nationalism and national identities.
Investigating the concept of violence and the domestic requires an
examination of the interdependence of home and homeland in literature.
This includes reading the home and the family as producers of national
identity as well as viewing nationalism as a determinant for and within
family relationships. How are revolution, foreign war, invasion, class
conflict and terrorism translated into literary representations of the
nation and the household? In what ways do the home and homeland become
metaphors for each other in times of war? Does the concept of separate
public and private worlds disintegrate under the pressure of a definition
of the domestic that includes both the home and the home front? Are the
disenfranchised empowered within the home and the nation by the
instability created by violent conflict? Is political violence
truly “contained,” as Armstrong argues, by the domestic, or are the
nation and the home transformed and rewritten by war?

Works Cited:
Armstrong, Nancy. Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of
the Novel. New York: Oxford UP, 1987.

Please send paper proposals of approximately 300 words to Patricia Cove,
PhD Candidate, Dalhousie University (patricia.cove_at_dal.ca) no later than
15 January 2008.


Epistolary Forms: Letters in Wartime

This panel aims to explore the genre of the letter in times of war. We
are seeking papers on letters, or on literary forms that incorporate
letters (such as epistolary novels or poetry); papers on such texts from
any and all periods are most welcome. Types of letters might include
official communications, private correspondence, letters between
combatants and those at home, and letters between those left at home.
What is the function of such letters? How are letters in wartime
different from letters in peacetime? How, if at all, are epistolary
conventions affected? Are new conventions developed? Do wartime letters
convey information, or hide it? Is it ever possible to accurately
communicate the experience of war to those at home? Is there a
fundamental difference between actual correspondence and the letters
found in fictionalized accounts of wars? What are the effects when
private letters are subject to public scrutiny (by censors or otherwise)?
What do wartime letters reveal about the experience of war that other
genres don’t? How has wartime communication changed since
the “information revolution”? The materiality of wartime correspondence
may also be of interest, as such letters may be written on different
paper with different ink, and may take a circuitous route to their

Abstracts of no more than 300 words may be sent to Emily Essert at
emily.essert_at_mail.mcgill.ca no later than 15 January 2008.


Mediating War: Literature, Conflict, and Technologies of Representation

The first half of the twentieth century saw literary Modernism emerge
against a twin backdrop of increasingly globalized conflict and
proliferating technologies of reproduction and diffusion. This panel
invites participants to consider this confluence of words, wars, and
machines, and to imagine possible lineages reaching further back in
literary history. What happens to writing at the intersections of war and
its manifold representations? How did photography, film, radio, and other
media affect writers’ diverse understandings of war, and how did it alter
their evocations of it? To pursue a link made by Friedrich Kittler in
Gramophone, Film, Typewriter: to what extent are technologies of
recording and representation themselves inherently tied to technologies
of conflict and, even, to an urge to preserve and re-animate the dead?
Panelists are encouraged to consider the stylistic and thematic impact of
recording and broadcasting technologies on the writing of the period as
well as writerly involvement in various non-print media; indeed, one aim
of this panel is to interrogate divisions such as “print” and “non-
print,” “writing” and “broadcasting.” Panelists might also address
technologies of representationâ€"such as maps or optical instrumentsâ€"which
predate the twentieth century; while Modernism, loosely defined, forms
the centrepiece of this panel, forays into other literary movements and
eras are encouraged. Abstracts (300 words or less) can be sent via email
to ian.whittington_at_gmail.com.

Possible avenues of inquiry include:
--technologies of scale and distance: cartography, telescopes, microscopes
--war photography and the literary imagination from the Civil War onward
--photography and the realist impulse
--Futurism and the apotheosis of technology
--newsreels and war film from the First World War onward
--World War II radio broadcasting: notions of audience, ambience, and
--technologies of treason and sabotage, encryption and espionage
--web-based media and 21st-century conflict
--speculative fiction: imagining new wars and new technologies
--haunted and haunting media: technology and the resurrection of the dead

Abstracts of no more than 300 words may be sent to Ian Whittington at
ian.whittington_at_gmail.com no later than 15 January 2008.


War and Gender

This panel will focus on gender in relation to war in North American
poetry written after the World Wars. In the aftermath of the wars, poets
and society in general were resituating themselves in communities based
on gender and nationality. Adapting a phrase from Adrienne Rich, Michael
Davidson in Guys Like Us (2004) argues that in the 1950s, for instance,
male poets in the United States formed communities that complied
with "compulsory homosociality" (16) by demeaning and excluding women. In
the context of the American war in Vietnam, this sexist homosociality was
reinforced by what Susan Jeffords in The Remasculinization of America
calls "masculine bonding" (168). For papers that might explore this
historical context or earlier twentieth century contexts at this
conference, there are many initial questions. To what extent did men and
women comply with or resist these social forces in their poetry? How did
women express their exclusion from such groups, and to what extent did
they create communities of their own through poetry? In what cases did
homosexual poets identify with these groups or others according to sex or
gender? Were poets in Canada inclined to endorse or critique American
views of wars in which the Canadian government did not engage? To what
extent did poets in the United States serve anti-war sentiment or vice
versa? How did gender and nationality serve different ends in post-war
North American poetry,
or did they?
Submit proposals for your papers (approximately 300 words) to Joel
Deshaye at joel.deshaye_at_mail.mcgill.ca no later than 15 January 2008


Mythological Representations of War

Roland Barthes once wrote that “Myth lends itself to history in two ways:
by its form, which is only relatively motivated; by its concept, the
nature of which is historical” (Barthes 137). Given the historical
nature of myth, it is not surprising that so many cultures have chosen
this form to document and explain their historical conflicts. But there
are two dominant understandings of myth: the first, “romantic” meaning of
myth claims it as a “superior intuitive mode of cosmic understanding”,
whereas the second “rational” meaning of the term is that “myth is a
false or unreliable story or belief” (“myth”). This panel seeks to
understand the role of myth in documenting and commemorating war. What
are the implications of using a fictional mode with a “rational” meaning
to document historical conflict? Similarly, if myth is to be understood
as a “romantic” mode, what is at stake in remembering conflict as an
imaginative event, and one that positions the conflict in a realm that
is, in some cases, super-human? Possible topics to explore include:

- Public reactions to mythological accounts of war
- The role of the warrior in mythology
- The role of women in mythological accounts of war
- Epic as a genre of myth
- Modern myths as war monuments
- Counter-myth as a rewriting of the historical record of conflict

Works Cited:
Barthes, Roland. Mythologies. Trans. Annette Lavers. New York: Hill and
Wang, 1972.
“myth" The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. Ed. Christopher
Baldick. Oxford University Press, 1996. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford
University Press. McGill University. 19 November 2007.

Please send proposals of no more than 300 words to Michèle Rackham at
michele.rackham_at_mail.mcgill.ca no later than 15 January 2008.

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Received on Thu Nov 29 2007 - 16:58:41 EST