Survival Logics: Narrative and the Margins - Graduate Student Conference: March 25, 2011

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The Program in Comparative Literature at Rutgers University
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Keynote: Professor Michael Rothberg, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Modes of survival often work against threats of erasure and containment. In turn, survival narratives reveal the restrictive procedures of normative forces and present logics that evade them. Often, different survival narratives come into conflict with each other and negate, eclipse, or marginalize the impact that each can have in the common or public sphere. If competing narratives about historical or cultural experience reveal the heterogeneous reality of social, political and cultural groupings, tensions and fissures are even more visible in contested spaces, whether in the center or at the margins of nodes of power.

The aim of this graduate student conference is to address these issues by exploring and developing critical and creative narrative practices that move us away from patterns of exclusion, competition and dispute for territory. We are proud to welcome Michael Rothberg, author of the recent Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization, as our keynote speaker. Rothberg uses the concept of multidirectionality to theorize "ongoing negotiation, cross-referencing, and borrowing" between narratives to demonstrate how they connect to each other in ways that are "productive and not privative." We are confident that his work will stimulate new ways of thinking about comparative studies of narrative in a wide range of fields.

One of our guiding questions will be: how can we think about the relatedness of literary traditions, cultural memories, histories and futures without eliding or overlooking key differences and the particular (dis)location and temporality of those positions?

We invite graduate student papers from all disciplines. Possible topics and questions to be addressed may include:

· the processes by which previously contested identities and social spaces come to demonstrate "productive" interaction between marginalized groups

· how conflicts over representations of shared identities, geographical spaces or historical experiences in literature, film, or the performing arts can be negotiated

· how aesthetic practices map or mark changing relationships between groups of people and geographic space

· how multidirectionality may help negotiate the tension which survival narratives exhibit between spatially-located, experiential memory and displaced, mediated or (what Alison Landsberg calls) "prosthetic" memory

· how narratives of survival operate in contemporary literary discourses of gender, race, class or other identity positions

· the ways in which different narratives produced in or about ghettos or other marginal spaces interact with each other and with the common or public sphere

· how survival practices operate in the context of local and/or global ecology and contemporary environmental concerns

· how multidirectional memory allows for collaboration between different literary, political, or cultural spheres (e.g. the international directions of the Harlem Renaissance, Negritude, The Black Arts Movement, and/or Diaspora Studies)

· how multidirectional memory opens space for political and cultural reconciliation of 'competitive memories'

Please submit abstracts of 250 words for 15 minute presentations to by December 20, 2010. Please include the title of the paper, presenter's name, institutional and departmental affiliation and any AV requests. Final drafts of papers must be submitted by February 25, 2011 and will be pre-circulated.