Ideas of Place and Particularity Conference, October 21, 2011

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Modern Horizons Journal

For the October 21, 2011 Modern Horizons conference (at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario) we invite abstracts for 20 minute presentations that explore the various philosophical, literary, artistic, and political expressions of place and particularity which have led to and are part of our time.

Place and particularity may be emphasised practically or addressed theoretically; in both cases, the importance of our own time, space, and experiences, and how these relate to what is different or other, is evident. Whether considering buying and growing food locally, participating in community activism, or working to sustain the diminishing realities of neighbourhoods, the urge to encourage and realise place and particularity is prevalent in our societies.

Behind these efforts, of course, lie various justifications for their foci. Thinking the tension between the particular and the universal, the part and the whole, and how one's own experience and sense of things fits into or departs from historical heritage and cultural traditions, theorists and artists have sought to express how we inhabit, contribute to, and represent our understandings of presence and place. In his recent work Identity and Justice (2008), Ian Angus examines Canadian political and cultural history through his understanding of 'locative thinking,' which he defines as 'the thinking of the particular as it leads outward to other particulars' (26), and which he connects to an idea of 'universalisation' that allows the particular to avoid parochialism and forms of dismissive self-preservation. In emphasising the necessity of beginning from one's own, Angus's ideas bring to mind Mikhail Bakhtin's notion of the chronotope (in his Bildungsroman essay), the space-time from which the work of art emerges and of which the work of art partakes essentially. In a similar fashion, but thinking about the different possibilities of experience inherent in forms of narrative, Walter Benjamin gestures toward the storyteller's rooted presence in time and space, over against the emergence of the unknown author writing novels for unknown readers ('The Storyteller').

The importance of one's own place and particularity cannot be blindly affirmed, however, as the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have shown how arrogant self-assertion has forced many individuals, families, and even cultures to undergo exile, both voluntary and involuntary, which have been experienced as traumatic (Thomas Mann), freeing (Witold Gombrowicz), or even met with relative indifference (Vladimir Nabokov). However experienced, individual and mass uprooting has brought about a careful reconsideration of the fundamental relation of person and place, and of home as nourishing ground or as confining familiarity.

With this beginning in mind, we invite presentations that address ideas of place and particularity, and how these ideas touch our everyday life, thought, and art.

Possible topics may include, but are not limited to:

-place and identity -place and community -place, nostalgia, utopia -home as ontological orientation -home, travel, encounter -home and exile -exile and art -exile as trauma; exile as freedom -national, post-national, and post-colonial literature -artistic chronotopes -the storyteller: oral and written narratives -culture and forms of appropriation and integration -the particular and the universal; the singular and the general -the particular and the personal -centre, periphery, outsidedness: structures of power

Accepted presentations will be considered for publication in the May 2012 issue of the journal Modern Horizons. Modern Horizons seeks to address, through examining a variety of ideas and artistic works, the endlessly open question of what is meaningful in what we are living.

The name 'Modern Horizons' comes with two emphases in mind. We include the word 'modern' because we begin with the arts, thoughts, and experiences of our own time. There is an essentially ahistorical sense to our idea of 'modern,' as we seek to avoid questions of periodisation or ideas of historical necessity. Our second emphasis is on 'horizons,' in the hermeneutic sense of the meeting of disparate interpretations and vantage points through conversation. The notion of horizons is essential to our way of thinking because, from the perspective of our own time and place, we seek to examine and interrogate those inherited, negotiated, and created forms of art and thought which matter directly or indirectly for us, here and now. This thought will involve the ongoing effort to raise, engage with, rehabilitate, and think about ideas that have impact today as they shape and are shaped by us; to this end, we solicit contributions with an emphasis on engagement and insight—contributions whose aims reach beyond their pages.

The essays published in Modern Horizons will take the form of thinking in public; that is, we wish to serve as an outlet for thinking that bridges academic and non-academic subject-matter—not as essays tied finally to a particular text, but in the form of exploratory endeavours which may participate in an ongoing conversation about what it means to be human in this world. This aim will be echoed in papers that embody a deliberately essayistic form, whether personal, essential, critical, hermeneutic, or public.

Each issue in Modern Horizons is theme based; these themes may be explored through essays on literature, philosophy, painting, music, architecture, or other forms of art. The freedom afforded by our non-affiliation with a specific academic institution is deliberate, as we desire to link public and academic worlds. This position allows us to explore ideas that are often neglected by academia or the public voice.

Modern Horizons is a peer-reviewed journal and welcomes a variety of submissions: essays, dialogues, interviews, and critical-reviews, in either French or English.

Please direct submissions to as an attachment in .doc format.

Deadline for conference abstracts is September 1, 2011.

Modern Horizons