The Verbal Text & National Literary Historiography: An Interdisciplinary Conference (November 2016), CFP deadline 1 June 2016

full name / name of organization: 
School of English & Drama, Queen Mary University of London
contact email: 

The Verbal Text & National Literary Historiography
An Interdisciplinary Conference

10-12 November 2016
Queen Mary University of London

Call for Papers
Deadline for proposals: 1 June 2016.

Confirmed keynote speakers: Tsitsi Jaji (Duke), Peter Howarth (Queen Mary).
There will be performances by poets from South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Sustained attention to the place of the verbal text in national literary historiographies is long overdue. In many parts of the world colonization, imported religious traditions, and globalization have framed what has come to be validated as 'Literature'. Yet in almost every society rich, inter-dependent relationships between oral aesthetics and print cultures continue to exist. In autochthonous cultures, orature itself is an archive, recording histories and cultural practice, but orature does not only persist in older forms: oral forms do not merely survive, but continue to adapt and thrive in new technological and social contexts. For many contemporary poets, performers, and artists, the verbal text is a living medium, influenced by present concerns and global styles yet often reflecting the role of orature in local social practices.

This conference seeks to register the complex, multiple temporalities of orature in the contemporary moment and to consider issues of collecting, archiving, anthologizing, and teaching verbal texts in different cultures and in transnational contexts. We invite papers from practitioners (poets, performers, artists, educators) and scholars in a range of fields including, but not limited to: spoken-word and performance poetry; orature, print cultures, history of the book, and new media studies; theatre, drama, and performance studies; music and musicology; art history; linguistics and language; anthropology; sociology; museum and archive studies.

We especially encourage submissions that suggest new directions in theorizing cultural and literary historiography, are committed to investigating intercultural and transnational perspectives and entangled histories, or address themselves to questions of preservation, pedagogy, and praxis. Possible themes might include (but are not limited to)

  • Transnational and diasporic histories, relationships, and practices
  • The inclusion—or exclusion—of the verbal text in national curricula
  • The place of orature in national literary histories
  • Orature and print
  • Collecting, archiving, recording, and anthologizing
  • Oral and performance aesthetics
  • Youth, global and local identities, and the rise of spoken word

Proposals should include an abstract of 300 words, email address, and brief biographical description (100 words). Extended deadline for submitting proposals: 1 June 2016. Please send submissions as an attachment in Microsoft Word to: verbaltext2016@gmail.com using VERBALTEXT2016 in your subject line.

The conference will be hosted by the School of English and Drama, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS. It will take place between 10 and 12 November 2016 at the university's main (Mile End) campus. There will be a modest registration fee, which will be confirmed by 1 June 2016 (advertised on the School's conferences page).

The conference is made possible by funding from the British Academy as part of the Newton Advanced Fellowship project An Arc to the Future: Preserving and Promoting Orature in the South African Literary Imaginary.

Conference organizers:
Deborah Seddon (Rhodes University, South Africa)
Andrew van der Vlies (Queen Mary University of London, UK)