Sound and Unsound: Noise, Nonsense, and the Unspoken. April 1-3, 2011.

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The University of Virginia Graduate English Student Association

Seeking submissions for a graduate conference on the roles of sound and sense in creating meaning. Abstracts due January 21st, 2011.

What are the roles of sound and sense in creating meaning? Whether puzzling through the nonsense words of "Jabberwocky" or listening to a Bach cello suite, we continually confront sound in a wide variety of print and media contexts. Most of us automatically order sounds into conventional categories—speech, music, bird song, sirens—but we rarely examine the fundamental assumptions that lie beneath these judgments. An unexpected distortion or harmony of sound can profoundly affect our perception of a piece of art, a public speech, or a conglomeration of noises in a cityscape. Additionally, the distinction we draw between music and noise parallels a broader distinction between sense and nonsense, as explored by visual artists such as M. C. Escher and others who manipulate our understanding of reality. The aim of this conference is to interrogate the intersection of sound, sense, and nonsense in texts from across the disciplines and to examine the connection between this sensual experience and the creation of meaning.

Keynote Speaker: Daniel Albright
Daniel Albright is the Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature at Harvard University. His areas of interest include nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature, music, and painting; theory of comparative arts; lyric poetry; Shakespeare and music; Surrealism and British literature; and science and literature. His books include Modernism and Music: An Anthology of Sources (2004), Beckett and Aesthetics (2003), and Untwisting the Serpent: Modernism in Music, Literature and the Visual Arts (2000).

Master Class Speaker: Eric Lott
Eric Lott is a Professor at the University of Virginia. His interests include American studies and cultural studies. His publications include The Disappearing Liberal Intellectual (2006) and Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (1993) which won the MLA Best First Book Prize in 1994 and the Myers Center for Human Rights Book Award.

Other topics might include:
• What is the relationship between the spoken and unspoken?
• Does silence in a text necessarily betoken a failure of language?
• What differentiates a melody from meaningless noise?
• Can nonsense or silence communicate truth? Or, can we make sense of nonsense?
• How can manipulations of tone, sense, and sound stabilize or destabilize texts, pieces of music, or other works of art?
• How does sound work across disciplines to create meaning in unexpected ways?
• Taking "sound" in its psychological sense, how can we interrogate the normativity of sense and sanity?
• What is the relationship between public and private sound or noise?
• How do verbal forms of communication compare to musical and visual forms?

We are seeking submissions from a wide range of fields including, but not limited to, literature, music, philosophy, logic, linguistics, the sciences, visual arts, religious studies, film, theater arts, and textual studies. Interdisciplinary submissions are encouraged.

We are currently soliciting proposals for 15-minute presentations on three-person panels. To submit, send an abstract (up to 350 words) to by January 21, 2011. Please include your name, institutional affiliation, and any technological needs.