Pay(ing) Attention: Narratives of Notoriety and Fame

deadline for submissions: 
January 25, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Stony Brook University English Department Graduate Conference

Stony Brook University

35th Annual English Graduate Conference

February 17th, 2023


“Pay(ing) Attention: Narratives of Notoriety and Fame” 

Keynote Speaker: 

Will Scheibel

Syracuse University


“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”― Mary Oliver, “Yes! No!” 

“While fame impedes and constricts, obscurity wraps about a man like a mist” —Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography

While attention is aspirational for some, it can be destructive for others. The practice of attending suggests the purposeful direction of the mind in an effort to attract, call, draw, arrest, or fix the object of attention. Narratives of seeking, evading, obtaining, rejecting, and desiring attention are pervasive in the study of literature, gender and sexuality, race, history, sociology, psychology, media, communications, philosophy, ecology, disability, class, art, and more. From Winston’s interactions with the surveillance state and subaltern resistance in George Orwell’s 1984 to the flourishing of a viral social media lexicon of terms and hashtags — Karens, OK Boomers, #FreeBritney, #Metoo — bids for visibility have resulted in fame, notoriety, infamy, or, when such bids fail, anonymity.  How can scholarship in the fields mentioned above help us contend with these multifaceted narratives of attention?


This conference welcomes presentations that interrogate positive, negative, and ambivalent associations of what it means to give or elicit attention. What does it mean to pay or be paid attention? What happens when we pay attention to something new? What happens when we stop paying attention? What effects result from one being aware or unaware of the attention one receives? How do/can/should we think about the relationship between the observer and the observed? What characteristics, actions, and ideas have garnered attention in various contexts? How do we define fame? How have online personas and personal “brands” changed the way we seek and receive attention? How do we define privacy? Is privacy a privilege, a right, or something else? How can one preserve privacy in the information age?   How do channels of communication influence attention getting and attention spans? Who wants attention? Who does not want attention? Who gets it, and who does not? 


We invite abstracts for papers that explore the tensions and contradictions within narratives of attention, fame, notoriety, and privacy. Presentations are welcome from but not limited to the fields of literature, critical studies, art, history, film, theatre, music, philosophy, and the humanities broadly. 


Abstracts of 250-300 words should be submitted to by January 25, 2023. The conference format will be in-person; we will attempt to accommodate virtual participants to the best of our ability. Presentation topics may include but are not limited to the following:


  • Notoriety & Infamy

  • Fame, Stardom & Celebrity

  • Visibility/Invisibility

  • “Cancel Culture”

  • Posthumous Attention

  • Mental Illness/Madness

  • Influencers & New Visual Media

  • Social Media Algorithms & Trends

  • Media Consumption & Coverage

  • Marketing & Demographics

  • Information & Data 

  • Discursive Engagements & Rhetorical Strategies

  • Representation

  • Age & Aging

  • Class & Labor 

  • Gender & Sexuality 

  • “The Canon”

  • Film & Television

  • Music

  • Fashion & Style

  • Embodiment 

  • Performance 

  • Protest & Rebellion

  • Income Disparity

  • Historical Narratives

  • Climate Change 

  • Cultural Exchange 

  • Migration & Immigration