'To fasten words again to visible things': the American imagetext

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American Studies at the University of East Anglia

A two day conference held by the American Studies department at the University of East Anglia
18th-19th June 2011

When Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that 'America is a poem in our eyes', he was partly expressing the transcendental belief that words and images share a unique and 'radical correspondence' that might enable the poet 'to fasten words again to visible things.' Walt Whitman answered Emerson's call for such a poet, cementing the special relationship that still exists in America between the written word and visual image.

The burgeoning discipline of visual studies is perfectly placed to take the exploration of this relationship in new directions. However, there is at present a tendency in such studies to neglect the roots of language in pictures, and to overlook the importance of visual/textual relations to the expression of American character, culture and identity. Whilst the growth of visual studies is an exciting development, 'visual literacy' remains a nebulous and confusing term, and as a field of academic study, tends not to generate readings outside a tried and trusted sociological and ideological framework. There is a pressing need for scholarship in image โ€“ text relations to be made more various, more theoretically adventurous and more culturally and historically penetrating, and for scholarship to place the study of contiguous images and texts in a much deeper cultural history of visual/verbal responses to film and theatre, to landscape and the built environment, to the visual and plastic arts, to contemporary considerations of mixed media texts, illustrated texts, illuminated manuscripts, and more.
This conference invites speakers to consider the product and practice of the interrelations of image and word across disciplines, and in a specifically American context. We encourage a theoretical approach that considers, for example, any aspect of science, historiography, theology, iconology, art history, multicultural and transnational study, film and media studies, poetry scholarship, cognitive psychology.

We are very pleased to confirm that our eminent keynote speakers are:
Professor WJT Mitchell (University of Chicago) and
Professor Miles Orvell (Temple University)

Please send a one-page abstract for a 20-minute paper that may address, but not be restricted to, any of the following:

Naming and captioning
Reading the visual and verbal
The photographic essay or book
Graphic design; the graphic novel
Lettrism, Hypertexts โ€“ fiction and poetry, concrete poetry
Environments and spaces of reception and display- eg the gallery, the museum, the classroom, the church, the home
Anthropology and archaeology
Literary use of the physical or imagined image
The use of verbal signs in the visual arts
Verbal and visual ontology
Illustrated texts โ€“ fiction or non-fiction
Illuminated manuscripts
Artists' notebooks / scrapbooks
Performance and installation art
Iconography and iconology involving word and image
Image and text in digital media
Image and text in the visual arts, including theatre, film, photography and television
The manifesto as imagetext
Newspapers and broadsides
Street art and graffiti

Please send abstracts to Dr Catherine Gander and Dr Sarah Garland at americanimagetext@gmail.com by February 28th 2011.
Panel suggestions are also welcome. Conference participants may be encouraged to expand and revise their papers for submission to an edited collection of essays. Updates and details will soon be available at American-image-text.blogspot.com.