Machines and Machinations, Sept. 18-19, 2009

full name / name of organization: 
Cornell University Romance Studies Graduate Conference
contact email: 

In light of the current centrality of digital culture, we propose the necessity of a critical examination of the machine, understood in the broadest terms, from the machinations of
philosophy, to technologies of writing and war, to the criteria of humanity.

Literary texts and machines have often been praised and feared for their ability to imitate life. Both are in a relationship of intimacy and remoteness to man, standing alternately on the
edges of these two limits. Whether stressing the verisimilitude or the unbridgeable gap between literary or concrete mechanisms and life, philosophers have always manifested concerns about
the threats posed by these imitations. Does the inexhaustible productivity of machines endangerthe definition of creation, or even writing, as a product of inspiration? Departing from a different understanding of "the machine", our conference also asks what to make of the machinations of rational thought against the mechanisms of poetics and technology.

A similarly endless production of discourse on networks, systems, and new media now abounds in the humanities and social sciences. Yet, before and beyond the industrial revolution
– from the influence of the catapult on medieval warfare, to the modern technologies of art – the paradigm of the "machine" has always been displaced, dissected, and dissolved. How do
machines and machinations allow us to reconsider theoretical and historical ambits that would seem most removed from contemporary discussion? Furthermore, where does the machine
speak in discourses on colonialism, post-colonialism, gender studies, biopolitics, modernity, manual and intellectual labor, among others?

Possible topics include:
• The writing machine: mechanical/mechanized/automatic generation of texts
• Literature as a machine: human/inhuman texts?
• Colonial machines and machinations: language, administration, religion, military
• Visual studies, art, art history
• Theatrical machineries, performance
• Archiving, immaterial memory, digital literature
• Defining the human: cyborgs, animal-machines, hybridity
• Feminism, gender, queer "machine(s)"
• Virtual realities and gaming
• Networks and mobilities, systems, new media
• Trauma studies
• Critical theory, philosophy, Marxism

We invite proposals from all fields related to Romance Studies and encourage
interdisciplinary approaches across a broad range of theoretical and historical perspectives.
Presentations will be in English and strictly limited to 20 minutes. Anonymous abstracts (no longer than 250 words), should be submitted by June 15, 2009 to Ashley Puig-Herz ( and accompanied by an attached cover letter indicating the title, author's name, affiliation, address, telephone number, and e-mail address. Submissions are accepted from graduate students only.