Cornell EGSO 2022 Conference: Aspiration

deadline for submissions: 
February 12, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Cornell English Graduate Student Organization

Cornell EGSO 2022 Conference: Aspiration


Hybrid Conference April 15th-16th, 2022

Call For Academic and Creative Proposals:


It’s no coincidence that ‘aspiration’ means both hope and the act of breathing.

—Ted Chiang, “The Great Silence” 

Electric Literature, 2016


“Aspiration,” as Ted Chiang’s short story highlights, is both a biological process and an ideological one. To aspire toward something suggests a striving; to aspire is to imagine or yearn for; to work toward something bright and beautiful, something worth reaching for, or dreaming of. When situated in the body, aspiration emphasizes the landscape of the lungs, the mouth, the throat, evoking the activities of breathing, voice, and song; to breathe is what allows us to speak, to sing, to sound. However, to aspirate also carries negative connotations, both ontological and ideological: to choke, to suffocate, to strangle; the political valences of “I can’t breathe” and its relation to police brutality and structural inequality; the hovering presence of COVID-19; ecological violence and pollution; cruel optimism, suspension, haunting, and the rejection or failure of futurity. Disrupted aspiration, whether medical, ecological, or structural, reminds us of the precarious and vulnerable nature of aspiration's dual meaning. 


EGSO 2022 seeks out papers and artistic works that explore how we as scholars, artists, and citizens might delve into the specifics and connections between these two seemingly at-odds definitions. What possibilities and limitations, then, are carried on the breath? How do we find either conformity or resistance in the act of aspiring? What pressures stop the literal and metaphorical air flow in our bodies and communities? Is, as Chiang claims, this confluence “no coincidence” -- or is the evolution of this term a cruel irony in an uncertain and violent political moment? What connections might we draw between the body and the world it occupies? What are the affordances and limitations of reaching toward an individual or shared horizon?


Potential focus-areas include, but are not limited to:

  • Affect studies

  • Ethnic studies/Critical race theory

  • Queer studies

  • Gender studies

  • Disability studies

  • Trauma studies

  • Scholarly work on aspiration, e.g. Christina Sharpe's In The Wake

  • Postcoloniality/decoloniality

  • Negativity and pessimism

  • Sound studies

  • Performance and media studies

  • Eco-criticism

  • Medical humanities

  • Literary forms

  • Aspirational reading/writing practices

  • Pedagogy

  • Creative Nonfiction

  • Personal Essay

  • Poetry

  • Short form fiction


Cornell’s English Graduate Student Organization invites academic and creative submissions to its 2022 conference that will engage these questions. We are seeking to feature conference papers, fiction and poetry readings, and works-in-progress that deploy the category of aspiration as a framework for creative and scholarly thinking. Presentations of any type should not exceed 15 minutes.


This conference is sponsored by Cornell’s English Graduate Student Organization, and we encourage participation from graduate students in English and adjacent fields such as Romance Studies, Comparative Literature, History, Social Sciences, and Philosophy. 


For academic papers, please submit a 250-300 word abstract. 


For creative readings, please submit both (1) a 250 word synopsis/rationale of the work and (2) a 300-500 word excerpt from prose or a poem sample of no more than three pages in length. 


Please include your institutional affiliation and a short biography (~50-100 words) along with your submission. Submissions and inquiries should be sent as a Word Document or PDF file to by February 12th, 2022.