"Borderlines": A Graduate Conference at the University of Maryland, College Park

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Department of English, University of Maryland, College Park
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Call for Papers:
4th Annual GEO Conference
University of Maryland, College Park
March 11-12, 2011

The Graduate English Organization of the University of Maryland's Department of English invites graduate students to submit abstracts for our fourth annual interdisciplinary graduate conference "Borderlines."

In Derrida's Aporias, he delineates three types of borders: those "that separate territories, countries, nations, States, languages, and cultures," those "between domains of discourse," and those among "conceptual determinations . . . and concepts or terms" (23). Students of languages and literatures constantly confront borders among time-periods, disciplines, critical approaches, and methodologies. Borders become problematic when they limit one's ability to function—as scholars and citizens—outside the given strictures of traditional frames for the study of literature. Conversely, though, borders help to maintain focus on context and cultural specificity, avoiding the dangers of generalization.

How natural, we might ask, are borders? Perhaps some are, but others only seem natural from a certain perspective and disregard the migration of human populations, ideas, texts, and cultures. The instability of borders in the world of global capitalism seems obvious, but a world "before" borders merits consideration, too. The act of re-drawing borders also demands attention: wars, conquests, and political shifts constantly redraw both literal and cultural maps. Equally important is inquiring into the relationship between literal and figurative borders and boundaries.

But borders go beyond maps and geographies. Borderlines abound in texts. Historians of the book have taught us to question where a text ends and begins, where reading ends and begins, and how the world outside inevitably colors the text. Even within texts, narrative, form, genres, and single characters force the consideration of borderlines: Shakespeare's plays vacillate between verse and prose even as characters seems to straddle multiple personalities; John Dos Passos's U.S.A. trilogy blends four different narrative techniques within its novels; Aphra Behn's Oroonoko and other early novels blur the line between history and fiction; William Blake's illuminated poems deny the traditional borders of text and image; Toni Morrison explores the world of racial borderlines in order to interrogate what it means to be human. Literature invites us to question whether the borderlines between genders, genres, historical eras, disciplines or fields of study, national identities, or even between the self and the other are fluid or solid, natural or constructed. Thus, we might consider the ways that literature both enacts and rejects typical borderlines, particularly across different disciplines – and how this interdisciplinarity transcends Derrida's neatly categorized archetypal borderlines.

The conference committee invites proposals for fifteen-minute papers from a broad range of disciplines and theoretical backgrounds. Presentations of creative work are also welcome. Panel submissions (3-4 participants) are highly encouraged. Please limit individual abstracts to 300 words for individual abstracts and panel abstracts to 500 words. Full papers may accompany abstracts. Please include three keywords at the end of the abstract to assist panel formation.
Abstracts are due December 10, 2010 and should be e-mailed to geoconference@gmail.com.