[UPDATED] The New Urgency: Emerging, Evolving, and Redefining Literature

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Brooklyn College Graduate English Conference

Fourth Annual Brooklyn College Graduate English Conference
April 30, 2011, Brooklyn College
Keynote Speaker: Cyrus R. K. Patell, New York University

"One is surprised, one is disturbed, one desires something familiar to hold on to- As soon as we are shown something old in the new, we are calmed. The supposed instinct for causality is only fear of the unfamiliar and the attempt to discover something familiar in it- a search, not for causes, but for the familiar."
– Friedrich Nietzsche, from The Will to Power

As new literatures emerge, they expand the boundaries of our cultural understanding. New beginnings are accompanied by an urgency to preserve older methods while adapting to the new. Most recently, our modern technological era has compelled us to revise our understanding of literature and what constitutes writing. Yet the technological advancements of contemporary times are not the only change to have transformed our perception of literature: the English and French Renaissance, Romanticism, Marxism, Post-Colonialism, and Eco-Criticism are just a few other cultural and intellectual developments that have emerged to challenge our sense of what literature is and what it does in the world.

Although they may appear to be frightening at first, new cultural ideas often become accepted over time, but can also later appear archaic; new discourses and movements that are deemed more adept in engaging the present replace established ones. Hence, emergence is a cycle of urgency, whereby we seek to replace what is old at an almost constant pace, even as the replacement of the old by the new can be an unnerving and unwelcome process. In literature, this cycle sometimes represents itself as a dichotomous narrative: We see the idea that the novel is rising or that the novel is falling; that discourse is too dense or too reductive in the face of social media; that academia in the humanities is too exclusionary or overly-inclusive in the post-national world; that free-verse either democratized and expanded the thrust of poetry or ruined its penchant for transcendent majesty and skill. In the face of an historic change, a debate arises between the detractors and the proponents any time a given movement develops and spreads. How we face change manifests itself in myriad ways: fear, enthusiasm, confusion, and a sense of urgency. We wish to examine the sources of this urgency, the literature that emerges and re-emerges within periods of change, and the drive to anoint an emergence as a movement by giving it a name.

We invite papers from all literary disciplines and welcome papers not just in the meta-literary idiom, but on specific texts and authors as well.

Possible topics may include but are not limited to the following:
• Neo-Regionalism and nationalism of literature in the Information Age
• Harnessing social media for the composition classroom
• The Deciders: from censorship to free press, who decides what has literary merit?
• Correspondence as literature: from paper to the E-reader/letter writing to email
• How temporal considerations affect the production and interpretation of literature
• Gutenberg to Google: how dissemination affects the value of literature
• Innovation vs. repetition: is time really changing our language?
• Where are they now? Marginalized movements of literature
• Revival: are all revolutions revolutionary?
• Cycles: recovery and obscurity in literature
• The fear of advancing technologies ruining a language
• Internet text: the places and spaces of emergence
• The role of new transportation in the "Great American Novel"
• Authorial voice: how does technology transform literary authority?
• Twitlit: 140 characters of (blank)
• The effect of transnationalism on the author/subject
• The reaches of post-humanist criticism

Abstracts of no more than 300 words are due February 15, 2011. Send them by Word attachment to bcgradconference@gmail.com.