"The Rest is Silence" Graduate Student Conference May 6th and 7th

full name / name of organization: 
York University, Graduate English Department
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The Rest Is Silence

Sometimes silence is not golden – just yellow.

When they hold their tongues, they cry out.

The very idea of silence, an absence of sound or communication, is inherently unstable. Silence functions as a blank signifier that can be invested with meaning at will—or at whim. It can thus be used as a tool of oppression and resistance, agreement and disapproval, deep engagement and withdrawal. One wonders, however, whether contemporary society, with its loud technology and louder forms of media, is becoming increasingly befuddled by instances of silence. For example, Joel and Ethan Coens' No Country for Old Men (2007) uses an absence of soundtrack to emphasize the bleakness and moral uncertainty of the contemporary American West: after screenings, the public left the theatres perturbed in part because the film did not offer sound cues that would help viewers digest the plot. The proliferation of cellular phones and blackberry devices, as well as of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, testifies to the fact that silence is a persona non grata in an age of immediate vocalization of personal experience. And yet, perhaps because of this monopoly of noise and narration, silence has become fetishized and idealized as a marker of transcendence and self-development, whether in the form of meditation, private reading, isolation tanks, or solitary hikes.

These are just some of the topics that will be explored at the 2011 York English Graduate Students' Association Colloquium, The Rest Is Silence, on May 6th and 7th. We invite participants from across disciplinary borders and sincerely hope that silence is the one thing we won't hear from you.

Possible topics could be inspired by, but should not be limited to, the following thematic concerns:

Silence in film and visual arts; Dramatic silence/pause; Comedy and silence; Politics of exclusion and erasure in literary canons; Loud silences; "Digital hum" – replacement of human speech by machines; Vows of silence; The role of silence in religions, spirituality and memorial/monument/memory; Reading aloud and reading quietly; Disability studies; Disciplining through silence – seen but not heard; Politics of interrogation; Muting and censorship; Gags and muzzles.

Please send a 250-400-word abstract and a 200-word biography by March 15th to tanya81@yorku.ca