Forgotten Books and Cultural Memory, May 27–28 2016, Abstracts due February 1, 2016

full name / name of organization: 
Taipei Tech Department of English (National Taipei University of Technology)

Literary history is full of forgetting—both forced and natural. Manuscripts and books have been forgotten as a result of conquest, language changes, and politics. Other texts have been forgotten due to their physical condition: sole manuscripts are hidden away in archives, libraries burn, and paper disintegrates. Many medieval texts that are now central to the English literary canon, such as Beowulf, Piers Plowman, and the Book of Margery Kempe, were virtually unknown until the nineteenth, or even twentieth centuries. Later texts, from the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, have been forgotten due to changes in taste, to their originally ephemeral nature, or to the sheer quantity of works that were published. As Franco Moretti writes in "The Slaughterhouse of Literature," "The majority of books disappear forever—and 'majority' actually misses the point: if we set today's canon of nineteenth-century British novels at two hundred titles (which is a very high figure), they would still be only about 0.5 per cent of all published novels. . . . But . . . how can we [know twenty thousand novels?] What does 'knowledge' mean in this scenario?" (64–65, 66).

In this conference, we will investigate how the process of forgetting and remembering literary texts impacts cultural memory (at the local, national, and globalized level). We welcome papers that are descriptive: these papers may make a claim about how the process of forgetting and remembering a text has worked in a particular time or place, or they may describe the significance of still-forgotten genres and texts to literary history. We also welcome papers that are prescriptive: how can and should scholars or general readers approach once-forgotten or still-little known (or even unknowable) texts? How should these texts be understood and contextualized?

While most papers given at this conference will address literatures in English, and we hope to have several panels on texts from the Medieval, Early Modern, Eighteenth-century, Romantic, Victorian, and Twentieth and Twenty-first century periods, we also welcome papers (in English) from scholars working on non-English texts, either Eastern or Western. As our conference is in Taipei, Taiwan, we particularly hope to organize several panels that address the forgetting and remembering of texts in interactions between the East and the West.

Our keynote speakers are James Mussell of the University of Leeds (Science, Time and Space in the Late Nineteenth-Century Periodical Press [2007] and The Nineteenth-Century Press in the Digital Age [2012]) and Rebecca Krug of the University of Minnesota (Reading Families: Women's Literate Practice in Late Medieval England [2002] and the forthcoming Margery Kempe and the Lonely Reader).

To propose a conference paper, please submit a 250–300 word abstract and the requested presenter information (available at the more detailed Call for Papers page of our website http://forgottenbookstaipei.wordpress.com/call-for-papers/) in one Word or PDF file to the e-mail address by Monday, February 1, 2016.

We also have an early-consideration deadline, Monday, January 4, because we will have a large number of papers from international scholars, who often have an earlier semester break than scholars in Taiwan and who may need more time to make long-distance travel plans. Anyone may choose to apply by the January 4 early deadline, and we will respond within two weeks of that date. Abstracts received after January 4 and before February 1 will be considered in early February with results sent by February 15. Papers will be limited to 20 minutes.

For more information on the conference, our keynote speakers, companion cultural events, transportation and lodging, things to do in Taipei and Taiwan, and archives in Taiwan, please see our conference website: http://forgottenbookstaipei.wordpress.com.