Making Space: Literary Constructions of Identity and Community

deadline for submissions: 
January 3, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
University of Minnesota English Department
contact email: 

Making Space: Literary Constructions of Identity and Community

April 24, 2020

A Graduate Conference in the Department of English, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

The concept of “making space” is both powerful and problematic. Making space for different identities and communities feels necessary—as Virginia Woolf so importantly emphasizes, a “room of one’s own” is imperative for claiming, creating, and expressing intellectual identity. Yet mere rhetoric about making space for difference risks condescension and absolution from the difficult work of community formation. This tension encourages us to ask: who is making space for whom? Who is included and excluded in this space-making?

Inspired by our department’s renewed search for identity in the midst of a long-awaited move to Pillsbury Hall, as well as broader contemporary anxieties about the role of literature and literary spaces, this graduate conference knits together notions of identity formation, community building, and place making. We ask: how are literature and literary spaces, both imagined and material, valuable for shaping and claiming identity? How does the spatializing language we use to talk about inclusion, including discussions of marginality, liminality, and centrality, affect our understanding of identity and community? How has the expression of these identities changed over time? How should we engage in criticism and rhetoric around issues of identity and community?

We welcome proposals for twenty minute presentations from a variety of fields and methodological approaches, including but not limited to comparative literature; studies of race, gender, class, and disability; rhetoric, composition, and pedagogy; architecture; and history. We invite academic papers as well as creative and nontraditional proposals.

 Interested presenters should submit a 300 word abstract and a brief bio to by January 3, 2020.