Special Session of the MMLA 2014: "The Affects of Cities"

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Elizabeth Dieterich
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Recent turns in psychoanalytic criticism cast individuals as more porous—more permeable to the feelings or psychoses of others—than traditional humanism usually allows. Theorists engaged with this affective turn wrestle with questions of how the "feeling of feelings," or affects, flow freely between individuals—especially when individuals are found in groups. "The Affects of Cities," a special session of the 2014 Conference of the Midwest Modern Language Association, themed "The Lives of Cities," proposes to explore and discuss affect and affective transmission specifically in urban environments.

Urban spaces boast large and diverse populations, are full of crowds—sometimes even mobs—and are marked by individuals packed together. Cities present problems of not knowing how to relate to one's neighbors; families might reside in overcrowded tenements or individual strangers might cram together into subway cars. In urban space, classes, races, and cultures move together, mix, and drift apart. Perhaps in other cases, conversely, city life creates an atmosphere wherein inhabitants inherently do know how to relate to one another, regardless of any cultural, racial, or class barriers—consider how inhabitants of New York City describe camaraderie as "New Yorkers."

"The Affects of Cities" will explore how individuals "feel" their own and others' identities in urban space, and how individuals might "feel" the identities of the spaces—the affect(s) the city itself has—for example, Paris is often described as inherently "romantic." Papers submitted to this session might answer questions such as: How does affect get uniquely transmitted in cities, where strangers are neighbors? How can one see the transmission of affect in the literature about or taking place in cities? Is there evidence of longing for affective connection outside of the city? Do individuals "feel their feelings" differently in urban spaces and rural spaces? Papers on all literary periods, genres, or attending to any locale are welcome.

Please submit abstracts of 250-300 words to Elizabeth Dieterich at emdieterich@gmail.com by June 1st, 2014.