MadLit 2013: Between Surface and Depth

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University of Wisconsin-Madison
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The University of Wisconsin-Madison's ninth annual Graduate Conference on Language and Literature (MadLit) will be held February 28–March 1, 2013. This year's conference, "Between Surface and Depth," investigates how humanistic disciplines articulate notions of superficiality and depth in their scholarly practices. Building from the debates surrounding Stephen Best and Sharon Marcus's "Surface Reading: An Introduction" (Representations 108.1 (Fall 2009): 1–21), this conference will explore the implications of using spatial models to conceptualize the location of meaning in language, literature, and discourse.

While this conference in grounded in English studies, the concerns it raises affect scholarly work across the humanities. To this end, we hope this conference will invite a discussion of how research in the humanities interprets, responds to, and even constructs ideas of "surface" and "depth"—for example, in conversations surrounding the unstable relationships between text and subtext or close and distant reading.

The English Department Graduate Student Association (GSA) is pleased to announce that this year's keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Mary Poovey, Samuel Rudin University Professor of the Humanities and Professor of English at New York University. Her talk will take place the evening of Thursday, February 28, 2013 (time and location to be announced).

GSA solicits proposals for 15–20 minute individual presentations or three–person panels that address any aspect of these issues. Possible considerations might include:

• What is the difference between "surface" reading and "deep" or "distant" reading?
• In what ways do literary and cultural texts engage with notions of spatiality and/or superficiality?
• What role do models of surface and depth play in our articulations of identity categories such as race, gender, class, nationality, and ability? How can surfaces—material, architectural, geographical, or literary—define or deconstruct community?
• How is materiality (textual, bodily, or otherwise) figured and/or valued in terms of surfaces and depths? How are cultural, historical, and political relationships built around these figurations?
• What role do models of surface and depth play in our understandings of the place of paratext in books and other texts?
• How is the sensory incorporated into discussions of surface and/or depth?
• How might recent developments in space/place theory challenge or expand the configurations of spatiality embedded in the surface/depth dichotomy?
• How do notions of surface and depth inform research in new media and/or digital studies? How might these emergent fields reconfigure our understandings of these spatial constructs?
• How are surfaces used or viewed across disciplines? How does this impact our sense of disciplinarity?
• In what ways do ideas of superficiality and perception affect pedagogy? How do spatial models of language and textuality inform the way we teach?

Abstracts of no more than 300 words for individual papers and 3-person panels should be sent to by December 15, 2012.

For more information about the Graduate Student Association and MadLit, please check out our website: