Special Session at PAMLA conference 2023: 'What's in a Love Story?' Love and Storytelling

deadline for submissions: 
June 30, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Arush Pande, English Department, Princeton University
contact email: 

On love being analogous to a battlefield, Roland Barthes writes: “From what language, one wonders, did these lovesick, melancholy grenadiers draw their passion (scarcely in accord with the image of their class and profession)? What books had they read–or what stories been told?” Following Barthes’ indicative questions, this panel inquires into the connection between love–as an idea, experience, or emotion–and the stories we have been telling about it over the long course of history. Can one imagine love without stories? What is the relationship between different forms of desire and the literary forms that bear their weight? How do changes in global storytelling practices transform our ideas of love?

We invite traditional papers and creative projects that theorize the relationship between love and storytelling, straddling questions about self and other, identity and community, and the complex entanglement of love with adjacent concepts like friendship, desire, and care, among others.

From Socrates to Roland Barthes, Shakespeare to Sufi mystics, the “meaning” of love has captivated a range of philosophical and aesthetic traditions dispersed across time and space. Yet, we find ourselves in a moment where it is increasingly difficult to theorize love as an abstraction. For, on the one hand, queer movements like aromanticism have questioned the universality of ‘love’ as a felt emotion or experience, and on the other, love itself has been endlessly deconstructed, its flirtations and overlaps with desire, care, friendship, but equally, patriarchal violence and ideologies of control exposed. As a result, while love remains one of the most quotidian words in our vocabularies, its place as a site of serious intellectual inquiry appears to have declined. While pop psychologists and influencer culture have, in classic neoliberal fashion, declared that ‘you can choose what love looks like for you,’ academic discussions, besides notable exceptions among the Black radical tradition like bell hooks, Gloria Anzaldua, Audre Lorde etc. as well as independent voices like Merve Emre, Eva Illouz, and Paromita Vohra, have focused attention on adjacent concepts like care, desire, and sexuality, deeming love a critically dry subject.

This panel attempts to get at the sticky, cringeworthy, gooey flesh (as it were) of love as related through forms of global storytelling across a range of literature and media, including but not limited to myth, drama, poetry, prose, film, music, flash fiction and digital content. The questions highlighted in the abstract are intentionally open-ended and trans-historical/geographical. Rather than attempting to concentrate the discussion within a specific literary or historical frame, I believe that putting seemingly disparate intellectual and aesthetic traditions in conversation might get us closer to reckoning with, and perhaps, negotiating the elusiveness of the subject at hand: love.

This panel welcomes traditional papers as well as creative projects that engage the questions highlighted in the abstract. The only additional requirement, as far as creative projects are concerned, is that they must be accompanied by theoretical reflections that demonstrate the intellectual work the project seeks to perform. For logistical purposes, this might appear like a roughly equal time-split between the artistic showcase and the reflection in, say, approximately 15 minutes of presentation time.

View session details at: https://pamla.ballastacademic.com/Home/S/18991

For submitting abstracts, you must log in or create an account at: https://pamla.ballastacademic.com/

I look forward to reading your abstracts!

Warm Regards,