[UPDATE] Dreaming Dangerously: Imagining the Utopian, the Nostalgic, the Possible

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Simon Fraser University, English Graduate Department
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Conference Dates: JUNE 21st and 22nd, in Vancouver, B.C

Keynote speaker: Dr. Robert Tally, Texas State University
"Utopia as Literary Cartography; or, the Other Spaces of the World System"

Nostalgia itself has a utopian dimension, only it is no longer directed toward the future. Sometimes nostalgia is not directed towards the past either, but rather sideways. The nostalgic feels stifled within the conventional confines of time and space.
–Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia xiv

So where do we stand now, in 2012? 2011 was the year of dreaming dangerously, of the revival of radical emancipatory politics all around the world. Now a year later, every day brings new evidence of how fragile and inconsistent that awakening was.
-Slavoj Zizek, The Year of Dreaming Dangerously


In recent years, the trope of the dream has increasingly come to name a tangible shift, at once individualistic and collective, toward alternate versions of the world, themselves directed by nostalgic backward glances at imagined pasts, utopian projections of impossible future spaces, and inspiring movements grounded in the present.

Nostalgia is a version of this kind of dreaming, but what can be said of the desire in nostalgia? What work does this desire do? According to Svetlana Boym, nostalgia derives from two terms: nostros, or "return home" and algia, or "longing" (The Future of Nostalgia xiv). Thus, it encompasses contradictory impulses. Depending on the emphasis, nostalgia either involves the desire to restore a supposedly lost unity, or the very opposite: dutiful maintenance of distance between subjective past and present - what Susan Stewart calls the "very generating mechanism of desire" (On Longing 23). And here is foregrounded the wager and the risk of political dreaming: the dream's potential to engender action and change in the Real faces its antithesis - the possibility that it can serve at best as a benign substitute for political action. Beside other kinds of cultural and political dreaming (the utopian vision, the militant manifesto), nostalgia offers alternative affective readings of history and the future, allowing us to think otherwise about our present spaces, institutions, and relationships. To what extent does a conception of desire and nostalgia complicate or complement the realization of its Utopian impulse?

Where do we think we stood in 2008? In 1968? In 1871? Where do we dream about standing in our various futures?

The 2013 SFU English Department graduate conference, Dreaming Dangerously: Imagining the Utopian, the Nostalgic, the Possible, taking place on June 21st and 22nd, asks that participants consider some of the following in their papers:

-The dream and its relationship to the political
-Dreams and dreaming across cultures and periods
-reimagined pasts as interpretive tools of and for the present (Medieval and early modern use of Greek histories, Victorian medievalisms, etc.)
-The potential of historical utopian projects
-Countercultural communities, or counterpublics, as utopian spaces
-Longing and desire
-Public memory and identity
-Retromania and Kitsch
-The translation and transmission of ideas across genres and media
-diachrony and possibility; the products of repetition ("First as tragedy, then as farce")
-the effect of scientific and technological innovation on both the possible and past

We invite applicants from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds to contribute to this conference. For a 15 to 20 minute presentation (approx. 8 pages), please email paper proposals of no more than 250 words to gradconf@sfu.ca by MARCH 15th 2013. For a panel proposal, please specify the title and include the THREE abstracts which make up your panel.

Finally, the SFU Graduate Conference is proud to host a creative night on the final day of our conference which invites poets, performance artists, short dramatic pieces, video art, and musical performances of all kinds. Creative proposals should include a brief artist statement and a sample of previous work. Ideally, your submission will speak to some of the general concepts we are developing but all will be considered.