Disaster Discourse: Representations of Catastrophe (2–4 June 2022)
THE 23rd ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE OF THE ENGLISH DEPARTMENT,
UNIVERSITY OF BUCHAREST
LITERATURE AND CULTURAL STUDIES SECTION
CALL FOR PAPERS
The English Department of the University of Bucharest invites proposals for the Literature and Cultural Studies section of its 23rd Annual International Conference:
Disaster Discourse: Representations of Catastrophe
To be held online, 2–4 June 2022
Dr. Terence McSweeney (Solent University)
Dr. Nina Mickwitz (University of the Arts London)
Dr. Rareș Moldovan (University of Cluj)
Prof. Sascha Pöhlmann (University of Innsbruck)
Prof. Nicolas Tredell (University of Sussex)
At this stage of the twenty-first century, the actuality, imagining, anticipation and recollection of a multiplicity of present, past and potential future disasters (for example, climate change, earthquake, fire, flood, famine, mass death, pandemic, war) permeate daily experience, amplified and disseminated through global media that transmit words and images almost instantly. What are the ways in which we now represent disaster verbally and in other forms that mix words with visual and aural images or eschew language, such as films, comics, video and installation art, painting and music? How might these relate to earlier representations (in, say, predigital times)? What effects might current disaster discourse have in shaping perceptions of and responses to catastrophe? Does disaster discourse exacerbate catastrophe, or can it offer catharsis and healing? Can it envisage alternatives to living in a constant state of emergency and what might such alternatives be? Many urgent and intriguing questions are raised by this discursive mode, which seems omnipresent in our current era.
Disaster studies is a growing discipline that ranges from abstract considerations of the definitions and dynamics of disaster (for example, differentiating disaster from “accident”, “natural” disaster from human-made disaster) to the formulation of approaches to disaster preparedness, mitigation, impact assessment, response and recovery and management that have immediate practical applications (see, for example, Michael K. Lindell, “Disaster Studies” (2013); Handbook of Disaster Research (2018), edited by Havidán Rodríguez, William Donner and Joseph E. Trainor; and Disaster Studies: Exploring Intersectionalities in Disaster Discourse (2020), edited by Janki Andharia).
The examination of factual and fictional representations of disaster in words and visual images makes a crucial contribution to those studies and such representations can be studied by means of the concepts and methods developed for the theorization and analysis of elite and popular literary and cultural texts—and, reciprocally, the study of such texts can modify those concepts and methods.
Seminal texts in the study of disaster discourse include Susan Sontag’s essay “The Imagination of Disaster” (1965) and Maurice Blanchot’s L'Ecriture du désastre [The Writing of the Disaster] (1980), and the twenty-first century has generated studies that focus on one or more particular periods and/or genres, such as Romanticism and Disaster (2012), edited by Jacques Khalip and David Collings; Hilary L. Chute’s Disaster Drawn: Visual Witness, Comics, and Documentary Form (2016); America’s Disaster Culture: The Production of Natural Disasters in Literature and Pop Culture (2017), edited by Robert C. Bell and Robert M. Ficociello; Eva Horn’s The Future as Catastrophe: Imagining Disaster in the Modern Age (2018) [originally Zukunft als Katastrophe (2014)], trans.Valentine A. Pakis; and The Experience of Disaster in Early Modern Literature, edited by Sophie Chan (forthcoming, 2022).
We invite papers that explore the modes and implications of all and any kind of disaster discourse from the present or past in verbal, visual and aural forms – such as literary fiction, genre fiction, the graphic novel, comics, poetry, documentary, film, photography, painting, sculpture, installation art, music, social media posts – examining the ways in which they are generated, the media they employ, the signifying systems they use, the imagery on which they draw, their audiences, their historical, cultural and social contexts, and the further discourses they generate.
Papers may focus upon individual works or bodies of work and may also explore more general issues around conceptualizing, defining and theorizing disaster drawn from aesthetics, ethics, literature, philosophy, psychology, political thought, science, anthropology, sociology, theology, the arts, and any other relevant discipline.
Possible topics may include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Definitions of disaster (e.g., differentiating it from “accident”; dividing into “natural” and “[hu]manmade”)
- Impacts of disaster (e.g., physical, psychological, cultural)
- Social dimensions of disaster (e.g., in regard to class, community, ethnicity, gender)
- Rhetorics of disaster (the different ways in which it is spoken and written about, e.g., the kind of imagery used, the function of clichés, the issue of whether words can ever be adequate to the disastrous event)
- Disaster in history and historiography (e.g., the tension between documentary sources and narrative pressures)
- Disaster and scientific discourse (e.g., the relationship of disaster discourse to popularized and professional scientific ideas)
- Disaster and agency (perpetrators, accomplices and victims of disaster)
- Disaster and theology (e.g., the theodicean problem of vindicating God in light of the existence of evil; the idea of disaster as divine punishment [the Biblical Flood])
- Mythologizing disaster (from ancient literature to modern folk myths)
- Disaster and emotion (e.g., shock, excitement, grief, mourning)
- The aesthetics of disaster (e.g., the ancient Greek idea, in Aristotle’s Poetics, of catharsis (purging); the distinction between two modes of aesthetic experience in Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful )
- Remembering disaster (public and private modes of remembrance and commemoration)
- Disaster at one’s fingertips (the effects of the almost instant transmission, sharing and amplification of disaster news on social media)
- Genre and disaster (e.g., tragedy; documentary; can disaster ever be (partly) written as comedy?)
- Disaster in literary and popular fiction (e.g., war novels, science fiction)
- Panels and bubbles: disaster in comics and graphic novels
- The rhythms and metres of disaster: engaging with disaster in poetry
- Theatres of disaster: is it possible adequately to put disaster on stage; what are the ways of trying to do so?
- Cinemas of disaster: ways of figuring disaster on film
- Camera eye: still photography and disaster
- Discord and concord: engaging with disaster in music
- Disaster in popular culture
- Anticipating disaster
- Living through disaster
- Recovering from disaster
- Transcending disaster
- Perspectivism / point of view: looking at disaster from different angles (or from clashing positions)
- Interdisciplinary approaches to disaster
Conference presentations should be in English, and will be allocated 20 minutes each, plus 10 minutes for discussion. Prospective participants are invited to submit abstracts of up to 200 words. Proposals should be in .doc or .docx format, and should also include (within the same document) name and institutional affiliation, a short bio (no more than 100 words), and e-mail address. Proposals for panel discussions (to be organized by the participant) will also be considered.
A selection of papers from the conference will be published in University of Bucharest Review (ISSN 2069–8658) – listed on Erih Plus, Scopus, EBSCO (Literary Reference Centre Plus), CEEOL and Ulrichsweb. See the guidelines for contributors at https://ubr.rev.unibuc.ro/.
Deadline for proposals: 17 April 2022
Please send proposals (and enquiries) to email@example.com .
Conference fee: 30 euro (or 150 lei if paid in Romanian currency).
For further details and updates, see: https://engleza.lls.unibuc.ro/conferinte/ .
(Enquiries regarding the Theoretical and Applied Linguistics section of the conference, which will be running at the same time, should be sent to AICED.firstname.lastname@example.org.)
We look forward to receiving proposals.
Organizing and Selection Committee:
Dr Alina Bottez
Dr Dragoș Manea
Dr Andrei Nae
Dr Andreea Paris-Popa
Dr Andreea Popescu
Dr Oana-Alis Zaharia
Dr Nazmi Ağıl (Koç University, Istanbul)
Prof. Bart Eeckhout (University of Antwerp)
Prof. José Manuel Estévez-Saá (University of A Coruña)
Dr Felicity Hand (Autonomous University of Barcelona)
Prof. Carl Lavery (University of Glasgow)
Prof. Thomas Leitch (University of Delaware)
Dr Chris Louttit (Radboud University, Nijmegen)
Prof. Domnica Rădulescu (Washington and Lee University, Lexington)
Prof. Kerstin Shands (Södertörn University)
Prof. Nicolas Tredell (University of Sussex)