UCLA Southland Graduate Conference: Art and Accident: June 1, 2012

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UCLA Department of English

2012 UCLA Southland Graduate Conference: Art and Accident
June 1, 2012

"Step accidently on your untied shoelace, fall down and you'll understand a thing or two about the theory of literature." --Viktor Shklovsky

We might think of the history of modern criticism as a history of denials of the importance of accident in the experience of art, from the central role of "purposiveness" in the Kantian conception of beauty to twentieth-century literary critical debates about authorial intention and organic integrity. The apprehension of accident as such is parried in New Historicist explorations of the complex causal mechanics of "the political unconscious," and dodged as thoroughly (if much differently) in newer inquiries into the structural roles that affects play in our aesthetic categories. Critics of all stripes know there's something a little funny when we say "it's no accident…"—Eve Sedgwick, even, has shown us the joke (we are the kid who's peed himself on purpose)—but collectively seeing through this gesture does not keep us from making it. It's difficult for the literary critic to embrace accident, to find a rubric for its appreciation. What's at stake in learning how? At a critical moment poised for an "aesthetic turn," that is to say for the reactivation of big questions of art and its systematic study, it is possible to frame anew and ask afresh questions like this; we wager that answering them is a vital task.

This spring, we invite you to untie your shoes and join us in this important work at the annual Southland Graduate Student Conference at UCLA, sponsored by the Friends of English. Possible topics may include, but are in no way limited to, the following:

• changing historical conceptions of the accidental, and how literary art makes its meaning
with, against, or alongside them
• "bad copies" and deviant reprints
• science and the accident of human existence; social history and the accidents of social
forms; accidental institutions and accidents of specialization and discipline
• a "divinity in odd numbers": theologies of accident; providential interpretation and its discontents
• semiotics and accident; the role of chance in etymology and metaphor
• identity categories: essence and/or accident; accidental sex (and gender)
• the material text as something more than an accident of "the text itself"
• modernism and contingency, modern art and "the arts of contingency"
• realism and "the world of chance"; coincidence and historical causality
• contingency before modernity
• conventional accidents and accidental innovations; genre as literary historical accident
• rhyme and accident; the poetics of mishap; puns and verbal play
• performance and contingency; staged accidents and accidents on stage
• the unpredictability of political crisis and revolution; the logic of mob versus organized protest; terrorism and disaster
• genres of the accidental: essay, picaresque, jazz, found art, flarf poetry, and others; literary evolution and its vicissitudes

This conference is open to all fields and specializations, and we actively encourage speculative and interdisciplinary work. Panels will be organized according to theme. To promote discussion and debate, each panel will feature a brief response from a UCLA graduate student. Keynote speakers: Michael Cohen and Louise Hornby.

Please send 250-word abstracts to art.and.accident@gmail.com by February 1st, 2012. Please paste the abstract the body of the email. Include your name, contact information, department, and institution. Prospective participants will be notified by February 20th. The conference will be held on June 1st, 2012, on the UCLA campus. Send any inquires to the same email address.