ACLA Undergraduate Seminar "Revisiting the City"

deadline for submissions: 
January 4, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
American Comparative Literature Association Annual Meeting, Chicago, March 16-19, 2023
contact email: 

Since antiquity, cities have been pivotal elements in collective and personal histories. As physical and imagined spaces, they have fostered narratives of grandeur and downfall, center and periphery, democracy and imperialism, temporality and spirituality.

The conception and depiction of the city have evolved across time and space, providing different models of social and cultural relations, influencing aesthetic conventions, and generating particular emotions and values, often in contrast with other geographic settings or forms of communal living.

This seminar invites submissions from undergraduate students addressing the relationship between cities and aesthetic representation (in literature, visual arts, film and other medias, literary, cultural, and critical theories) in any historical period or area of the world. How has the city helped define civilization? In what ways does the urban framework shape characters and events? How are the form and genre of a work of art influenced by the city? What social, political, ethical issues does the representation of the city raise? What contradictions emerge from the depiction of urban life?

Comparative papers may engage with ways in which the city as an image, setting, or subject enables an investigation of the following or similar topics (but not exclusively):

Community vs society

Real and ideal cities

Ancient and modern cities

The city in detective fiction, thrillers, noirs

Languages, genres, and narrative perspectives shaped by cities

Utopias and dystopias

The city and the countryside

Nature and culture

Tradition and modernity

The “civilized”/”primitive” dichotomy

Progress, industrialization, technology, and their discontents

Social order and disorder

Urban crowds and revolutions

Gangs, protest, and violence

Class struggle, gender, racial, and economic disparities

Slums, banlieues, and other sites of social and spatial marginalization

Freedom vs alienation

Work and capitalism

Cities and avant-gardes

Capital cities

Port cities

Imperial cities

Colonial and postcolonial legacies

Monuments, ruins, and collective memory

Travel narratives

Wars and natural catastrophes

Environmental challenges

East and West, North and South

Local, national, and transnational identities

Metropolises, megalopolises, globalization, and cosmopolitanism

Migration, borders, multiculturalism


Abstracts are accepted through January 4, 2023 and should be submitted at the following link:

Submitting a paper does NOT guarantee acceptance. The organizer of the seminar will contact students after the selection process is completed.

 Undergraduate students will pay no conference registration fees.

For more information about the conference, visit the ACLA website at