[UPDATE] Cultural Bankruptcy: Bail Out or Bonus? DEADLINE EXTENDED

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Department of French and Italian, Northwestern University


The Graduate Students of the Department of French and Italian at Northwestern University Present an Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference
Cultural Bankruptcy: Bail Out or Bonus? Rethinking Culture in the 21st Century
April 8-10, 2010
Keynote Speakers: Susan Hegeman and Phillip Wegner Associate Professors of English, University of Florida

"The postmodernisms have, in fact, been fascinated precisely by this whole "degraded" landscape of schlock and kitsch, of TV series and Reader's Digest culture, of advertising and motels, of the late show and the grade-B Hollywood film, of so-called paraliterature, with its airport paperback categories of the gothic and the romance, the popular biography, the murder mystery, and the science fiction or fantasy novel: materials they no longer simply "quote" as a Joyce or a Mahler might have done, but incorporate into their very substance." ~ Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, Or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism

The cultural moment that Jameson describes in his 1991 work calls into question the nature of art—broadly understood as visual arts, cinema, architecture, music and literature—in the postmodern society. Devoid of depth and the ability to "think historically," has cultural production truly become nothing but pastiche, art without affect or referent? If Jameson's evaluation is accurate, then we are faced with several particular concerns: the relationship between art and everyday life, canonicity in an age dominated by ideological pluralism, the reinterpretation of high/low distinctions in previous centuries, and the validity of the intellectual categories that have previously served as cornerstones of our discipline—divisions of genre, historical period, national tradition, and medium, to name a few.

Whether our object of study is contemporary culture or the artistic production of past centuries, as scholars we share this current historical moment in which we write. How does our current cultural moment affect the way we read the past? How are we to understand culture? What are the implications of theories that attempt to repudiate culture as an object of inquiry? Can cultural production exist independently of capitalism? What is the current relationship between cultural producers and consumers? How has that relationship changed historically? Do modern and traditional forms of pastiche have similar or divergent functions and objects? Where do the historic, the synchronic and/or the diachronic stand in relation to cultural production? How do art and theory mediate the notions of surface and depth? We welcome papers from a variety of disciplines that address the above questions, in whole or in part, or a related topic.

Please submit your abstract of no more than 350 words to culturalbankruptcy@gmail.com by January 31, 2010. Include your name, address, e-mail address, school affiliation, and any A/V requirements in your email. Notification will be on or before February 15. Papers must be in English and no more than 20 minutes long. Conference participants will have the opportunity both to formally present their paper and to workshop it the following day with the other presenters, the keynote speakers, and the conference moderators. To facilitate this we will require a final copy of the conference paper to be submitted by April 1. For more information, please visit http://www.frenchanditalian.northwestern.edu/events/culturalbankruptcy.h....