Decay and Regeneration (Virtual Graduate Student Symposium)

deadline for submissions: 
January 29, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
George Washington University English Graduate Student Association
contact email: 

The theme of decay and regeneration captures our current global moment of political uncertainty, environmental catastrophe, public health crises, and mass protest. In the past few years, we have witnessed a once-in-a-century pandemic; global protests in response to police brutality; a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season; the largest wildfires in recorded Amazonian, American, and Australian history; the continued resurgence of fascist political ideologies; and the potential collapse of liberal democracy as we know it. 


Recent events have challenged our collective sense of space and place with shifts to virtual environments and telework. Whether discursively constituted or historically materializing, health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated systemic social disparities and resulted in the increased policing of racialized, gendered, and disabled others. The omnipresent and inevitable threats of global warming and climate change continued to feed public anxiety. American presidential campaigns deployed the slogans “Make America Great Again” and “Build Back Better.” The ideas of decay and regeneration saturate current cultural narratives; these themes also gesture towards nostalgic pasts and hopeful futures.


The George Washington University English Graduate Student Association (EGSA) is seeking papers from graduate students working across the disciplines of literary, media, and cultural studies that touch on the theme of decay and regeneration. The cyclical nature of decay and regeneration provides ample terrain for the exploration of literature and media from the medieval, modern, and contemporary periods concerning social change and reform, war stories, gender roles, racial others, and changes in the body. Relevant projects might include one or more of the following topics and/or fields:


  • rural/urban decay and renewal

  • ecocriticism and climate change

  • historical revolt and protest

  • anxieties around social change

  • colonialism, postcolonialism, and decolonization

  • pessimism and optimism

  • debility and disability

  • decay and regeneration in the body

  • zombies and vampires

  • animal studies

  • the literary gothic tradition

  • the history of the novel

  • quarantine/pandemic narratives


Please submit 300-500 word abstracts for fifteen-minute presentations to be shared virtually. All submissions should include the proposed paper title as well as a short bio (100 words) that provides your name, personal pronouns, institutional affiliation, and department. Standout submissions will be considered for an extended feature showcase if the scholar agrees.


Abstracts should be submitted via Google Form (URL link to copy and paste: by January 22nd, 2021. Please contact GW EGSA at with any questions.