Graduate English Association, Department of English, University of Toronto
Thursday, April 27th, 2017
It isn’t absurd, e.g., to believe that the age of science
and technology is the beginning of the end for humanity.
Culture and Value
We have come so far; it is over.
In his 1950 Nobel acceptance speech, William Faulkner famously derided the apocalyptic mentality. Praising the unique resilience of the human species, he proclaimed: “I decline to accept the end of man.” More than sixty years later, the “end of man” is no longer a deniable premise, it is an inevitable reality. Timothy Morton argues that “the end of the world has already occurred,” describing the Anthropocene as an essentially post-apocalyptic era, in which irreversible effects of human technologies have set the wheels of global demise in motion. The ever-increasing imminence of global environmental crisis, the persistent threat of nuclear warfare, the supplementation of human bodies and cognitive faculties by machines, the spread of deadly disease—we are living in the hypertrophic overdetermination of an ending. Proceeding from the ineluctable horizon of human demise, the GEA is seeking papers that think with and about the concept of “Endings” for its 2017 conference.
Submissions need not limit themselves to the prospect of human extinction; they can interrogate the capacious topic of “endings” in all its significations. The problematic of endings intersects with literature at several salient junctures: from the ending of a narrative arc, to the literary representation of the end of life, to the telos or “ends” of literary criticism as such. Deleuze and Guattari praise literature’s capacity to “overthrow ontology, do away with foundations, nullify endings and beginnings.” Elsewhere, the obsolescence of literary forms––or indeed the end of literature itself––has been a persistent preoccupation for authors and critics alike, while today new technologies pose an existential threat to the materiality of the book, and neoliberal governance allocates increasingly fewer resources for literary and academic endeavours.
Just as endings are written into beginnings, so beginnings find rich soil in the detritus of what has passed away. Endings announce possibilities for articulation: Arundhati Roy writes, “My world has died, I write to mourn its passing.” The conference seeks, finally, to interrogate the relationship of endings to potential beginnings and to perform a reappraisal of the principle that, in T.S. Eliot’s words, “Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning.”
Possible topics include:
- Ecocriticism and the Anthropocene: ecopoetics, environmental literature, climate realism, disaster and crisis, climate change
- Narrative endings: genre, happy endings, twist endings, the marriage plot, hetero-narrative closure
- Extinction, literal and figurative
- Periodization: the end of events, eras, movements
- “Post-x”: postcolonial studies, posthumanism, the postcritical turn/postcritique, post-truth politics, postcapitalism, post-Marxism
- Futures and non-futures: utopias, dystopias, (post-)apocalypses, temporalities, queer temporalities, imaginaries
- Ends: objectives, goals, methodologies, teleologies
- The end of life: aging, illness, disease
- Death, literal and figurative: social life/death, slow death, the undead
- Revelations, messianism, eschatology
- Obsolescence and technology: the end of the book, planned obsolescence, technological apocalypse
- The nuclear question: nuclear warfare, nuclear winter, mutually assured destruction
- Beginnings and non-endings: the end of endings, perpetuity, reproduction, infinity, circularity, birth, rejuvenation, resurrection
The “Endings” conference will be held at the University of Toronto’s Department of English in the Jackman Humanities Building on Thursday, April 27th, 2017. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. Papers of 15-20 minutes will be delivered in panels of three, with question periods to follow.
Applications should be sent to email@example.com by February 1st, 2017. Please include:
1. An abstract describing your paper (max. 300 words)
2. A short biography (max. 50 words)
For further inquiries, please contact the U of T GEA conference committee at firstname.lastname@example.org