deadline for submissions: 
May 5, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
University College London (UCL) English Department


The UCL English Graduate Conference will take place in person at UCL on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. This year’s conference theme is ‘The Unexpected’. Abstracts of 250 words should be e-mailed to by May 5, 2023, along with a short biography.

“There is a future which is predictable, programmed, scheduled, foreseeable. But there is a future...which refers to someone whose arrival is totally unexpected. For me, that is the real future.That which is totally unpredictable.”

–Derrida in Derrida (2002)

According to the old adage, there are only two kinds of stories: a person goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town. But how do we think or feel about the return, retelling, or reinvention of such stories or tropes—or a work’s departure from them? Do we find them satisfying or troubling, uncanny or cathartic, a source of comfort or disappointment, or a cause for concern? Does our noticing, or needing to notice tropes, patterns, plots or rhythms make us “paranoid readers”, expecting the unexpected (which may be the worst) in order to avoid being surprised at all? Do we habitually look for the predictable—the ‘same old’, what we already know—in order not to be caught out or taken unawares? How exactly do or should creators respond to these expectations; by meeting, exceeding or ignoring them? And how exactly do you make the unexpected happen or make sure its arrival isn’t missed? Should you simply leave it to chance–sitting back and watching what happens–or does it need to be prepared for, directed or inaugurated?

We would like to invite participants from across the arts and humanities to explore the idea, the experience or consequences of imagining, encountering, evading, or missing the unexpected—a word whose roots, reaching back to the act of looking (or not looking), might also make us consider our habits or practices of reading, watching, writing, and critiquing. How might not only what we look for but how we look— reading between the lines, for instance, or adopting a free floating attention—change the nature of what we are looking at? Do we bring the unexpected into existence by looking for it, while demanding that it break up our sense of routine, boredom or ennui? How far does or can the unexpected alter our senses—our often unexamined relation to the past, the present and the future—as well as challenge what we do when we look at, over, into or away from literature, film or art?

Keynote speakers: Professor Mark Currie (QMUL) and Dr Julia Jordan (UCL)

Abstracts of 250 words should be emailed to by 5 May along with a short biography.

Topics might include:

grammar, tense or mood|temporality and timing, esp. comic|the generic and the unconventional|mystery, suspense|twist endings|surprise and shock|offence, obscenity|the uncharacteristic|improvisation|the experimental|miracle|discovery|the unconscious and psychoanalysis|breakdown, breakthrough|emergency, crash,|crisis, disaster|downturn, upturn, windfall, providence|the unfortunate|the new, the novel, novelty|prophecy, prediction, foresight, forecast|volatility|anomaly|butterfly effect, chaos theory|machine learning|(dis)appearances, apparitions, visitations|returns, reversals|revolution|outburst, outbreak|aetiology, eschatology|the unplanned, the unintentional|the unforeseen