MadLit Conference 2023: Ephemerals

deadline for submissions: 
February 17, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
University of Wisconsin Madison Graduate Student Association
contact email: 

MadLit Conference 2023: Ephemerals

The University of Wisconsin–Madison English department (Literary Studies, Rhetoric and Composition, English Language and Linguistics, and Creative Writing) will bring together graduate student researchers, educators, and writers to discuss critical and/or creative works that think through the theme and metaphor of ephemerals.

Ephemerals, wildflowers marked by short life cycles, are the first plants to seed and grow in the new bare ground after a wildfire. Fast germinating, they spend most of their lives in a rhizomic state of seeded dormancy, waiting for ideal conditions to flourish. Ephemerals emerge, (re)produce, adapt, wait for the right material conditions, and bloom. Transitory, they fail and fade off, gather resources, reemerge.

Newness inheres within ephemeral thinking. On this, José Esteban Muñoz writes in “Ephemera as Evidence: Introductory Notes to Queer Acts”:

"I want to take some time to reflect on what I’m calling ephemera as a modality of anti-rigor and anti-evidence that, far from filtering materiality out of cultural studies, reformulates and expands our understandings of materiality…it is all of those things that remain after a performance, a kind of evidence of what has transpired but certainly not the thing itself…it is interested in following traces, glimmers, residues, specks of things."

UW-Madison’s 2023 MadLit Conference aims to provide the bare, sodden ground in which new ideas, works, methods, and experiments will thrive, even if transiently. In this conference, we will explore the notion of ephemerals in relation to literary studies, practices, methodologies, and their ephemera (e.g. works that contend with non-literary forms such as film and television, music, video games, drama, digital and visual culture, and so on). In this vein, one might ask: What happens to modes of knowledge production when this ephemeral approach is celebrated? What can be learned from embracing the transitory and transformative nature of our work?

We welcome submissions that celebrate the idea of ephemerals from any period, concentration, literary tradition, genre, methodology, or context.

Conference Format:

MadLit 2023 will convene on April 15th and 16th in a hybrid virtual/in-person format. Please note that Day 1 of the conference will be held for participants as in-person only. We welcome both virtual and in-person presentations for Day 2.

Day 1: On Day 1 of the conference, the 2023 MadLit organizers will be developing in-person working sessions at UW-Madison based on two modes of desired writing feedback: “Dissertation Chapters” and “Papers.” Submissions for these sessions should be no more than 20 pages in length. Following these working sessions, MadLit will host a reading for creative writers during the reception. There are no genre requirements for creative submissions; however, submitted works should be no more than 10 pages. If you have a creative work you would like to read, please submit an additional artist portfolio of no more than 2 pages.

Each working session will:

  • Conduct email discussions of general issues and arranged procedures for the conference meeting
  • Facilitate a discussion by and for graduate students that engages support, community, and writing advice for works currently in progress
  • Exchange papers and feedback by e-mail prior to the conference

Day 2: Day 2 of the conference will offer traditional panel presentations in a hybrid virtual/in-person format at UW-Madison. Submissions should be 7-10 pages in length for 10-minute presentations.

Please submit your abstract here by Friday, February 17. All abstracts, including those for working sessions, are limited to 250 words and must explicitly relate their goals to the conference theme.

While we unfortunately cannot offer funding for travel or lodging, we are pleased to share that the conference is free to all presenters and participants! Contact uwmadlit@gmail.com if you have any questions or concerns. You will be notified of your acceptance via email by late February/early March.