Eighth Annual EGSA Graduate Student Conference: The Spectacular! March 28-29, 2014

full name / name of organization: 
Northeastern University English Graduate Student Association

Keynote Speaker: Wendy S. Hesford, Professor of English, The Ohio State University
Faculty Speaker: Theo Davis, Professor of English, Northeastern University

As an adjective, the word "spectacular" hails the spectacle into being, materializing the uncanny as it involves ordinary, unrelated bystanders in the unfolding of its fantastical designs. As a noun, the spectacular may enact a situation, an idea, and/or a (non-) relation of subjects and objects, whose unprecedented and hyperbolic nature exceeds the parameters of ordinary life. In playing with our perceptive and proportional devices, the spectacular complicates both the recognition and representation of everydayness as well as the extraordinary, unsettling orderly arrangements of sense, sentiment, scale, and space. Is the spectacular a mirage of hyped-up mass sensations, a simulacrum of reality in excess? Is it a sensible alternative to the same-old-same-old, a healthy resistance against conventionality and cultural stasis? This conference, in short, hopes to attract inter-disciplinary perspectives that more fully engage with different facets of the spectacular; that examine its epistemologies, ethics, and eventness; that expound on cultural and political practices of spectacle and speculation, through which some feelings, identities, social relations, and larger embodiments of affiliation and membership take on extraordinary dimensions, but not others.

The Northeastern University English Graduate Student Association's (NU EGSA) eighth annual conference invites a wide array of interpretations of the theme The Spectacular! that sheds further light on its psychological, socio-economic, cultural, and political dimensions. We welcome scholarly work that examines or engages with historical or contemporary moments of spectacle at home or abroad, visual and textual representations of essence and excess, the affective and ethical implications of spectacularization, and different methodologies and schools of thought in relation to the spectacular. Our conference will consider papers from across the disciplines – including, but not limited to, literary studies, visual studies, rhetoric and composition, sociology, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, political science, the digital humanities, gender and sexuality studies, religion, and cinema studies.

Please send abstracts of 250-300 words to thespectacular.conference2014@gmail.com by December 13, 2013.
Include in the submission your name, department, and university affiliation.

Possible questions to consider, but are not limited to:

What sorts of power dynamics are involved between the subject doing the naming/identifying of the spectacular, and that which being objectified as such?

What role does the spectacle play in structuring subject formations and (non)ethical relations within the site of unfreedom?

What happens to our conceptions of the spectacle or spectacular moments when juxtaposed more particularly against, in Ann Stoler's words, "the fierce clarity of intimacies" of a private sphere? And what is at stake in this juxtaposition?

Can the spectacular be private, or does it require some outside witness? In other words, is there such a thing as the 'spectacular' that exists within a private reality?

How might spectacle/the spectacular be deployed in metropolitan and colonial places, such that their invocations simultaneously demarcate sameness and difference, the normalized and the unincorporated?

How might narrating lived experience within situations of the spectacular (re)articulate identities and relations beyond the boundaries of the commonplace?

How do spectacles call into question an ethics of witnessing? And how might the spectacular create a platform for transformative witnessing to incite social or political change?

Can a screen be spectacular? And if so, what can screen-mediated representations of the spectacular do that text cannot?

How has the real-time immediacy of social media and digitally crowd-sourced information altered the ways we experience the spectacular in the twentieth-first century? (Is the spectacular still as spectacular when experienced "second-hand"?)

What tools and tropes come into play to activate the senses in prose as well as in verse? How does this impact the ways one understand spectacle?

How do digital humanities tools--and their particular affordances--reveal/resist/relocate spectacularization?