[UPDATE] Literary Form and Reform [Shanghai, 17-18 May, 2016, Abstracts due February 29, 2016]

full name / name of organization: 
Nan Zhang; Miles Link, Fudan University

The resurgence of formalist interests in recent years has sparked new discussions of the conception, role, and significance of form in literary and cultural studies as well as pedagogies. In her 2007 PMLA essay "What Is New Formalism," Marjorie Levinson lays out several strains of new formalism emerging in the American academy, which simultaneously embrace a renewal of attention to aesthetic form and express divergent emphases and agendas. While some new formalist projects endeavor to restore the relevance of form to materialist critique in the spirit of early Marxist and cultural critics from Georg Lukács and Frankfurt School theorists to Raymond Williams and Fredric Jameson, some other new formalist approaches are committed to reestablishing literary form as the distinct vehicle of aesthetic experience that cannot be reduced to an ideological mystification.

These new formalist trends bring into focus afresh the tensions between text and context; art and history; and literary form and social system, inviting a rethinking of not only the centrality of form to literary and cultural criticism but also form's ethical and educational possibilities. Indeed, in the still more recent scholarship on form, Caroline Levine's innovative work collapses the boundaries between aesthetic and socio-political forms, arguing that a nuanced understanding of how forms organize both works of art and political life, while illuminating the textures of social relations, remains integral to organized forms of protest and resistance.

To think of the social and critical agency of aesthetic form evokes yet larger questions concerning the purpose of literary criticism in diverse cultural and cross-cultural contexts. What is valuable about literary studies? In what ways is literary experience unique? Can literature and literary criticism realize and perfect experience in the larger world? This conference seeks papers that explore the issues surrounding literary form and reform through theoretical analysis and/or textual practice.

Possible paper topics could include, but are not limited to:

• continuities and differences between a wide array of formalisms: Russian formalism; New Criticism; Chicago school formalism; the criticism of William Empson, I. A. Richards, and F. R. Leavis; new formalisms; and the resurgence of aesthetics
• cognitive, affective, and aesthetic functions of form
• ideology and form; form as a vehicle for ideology
• literary form, history, subjectivity
• the relationship of form to medium; how literary forms negotiate media
• realism, mimesis, revolution
• modernist experimentalism, experiential intensity
• form, culture, sensibility, judgment
• fissures, interstices, indeterminacy
• transmutability of form and theme
• pedagogical implications of close reading
• teaching literary criticism in specific cultural and historical contexts
• the humanities crisis, the future of literary studies

Keynote Speakers:

Simon During
The Centre for the History of European Discourses, University of Queensland

Darryl Jones
Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Trinity College Dublin

Please send abstracts of approximately 250 words, together with short bios, to Nan Zhang (nanzhang@fudan.edu.cn) and Miles Link (mileslink@fudan.edu.cn). The deadline for abstracts is February 29, 2016. Participants will be notified in March, 2016.