[UPDATE] DECADENCE: An Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference

full name / name of organization: 
Dalhousie Association of Graduate Students in English

[DEADLINE EXTENDED: Please note the new deadline of May 23, 2014, and the newly announced keynote speakers.]
Decadence: An Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference
Dalhousie University (Halifax, N.S., Canada)
August 15-17, 2014

If it is a cliché to speak of one's own age as decadent, so be it. These are decadent times. Justin Bieber's car collection and Viktor Yanukovych's presidential palace fit comfortably in a world where the 85 richest people have accumulated as much wealth as the poorest half of the planet's population, according to a recent Oxfam study. Such narrowly defined good times cannot roll. This disparity between extreme wealth and poverty expresses the paradox inherent in the term "decadence." Indeed, decay is at the etymological heart of decadence, which the OED defines as a "process of falling away or declining (from a prior state of excellence, vitality, prosperity, etc.)." However, given this definition, to what or to whom should such a term be applied, or to what end? At what point does self-indulgence constitute over-indulgence, or—to shift the conversation slightly—at what point might institutional or political aches, pains, and anxieties be symptomatic of inevitable collapses on a larger scale?

Although literary critics most commonly associate decadence with nineteenth-century and fin-de-siècle authors such as Baudelaire, the French Symbolists, and Oscar Wilde, this interdisciplinary conference aims to encourage exploration of the ways in which this term can be effectively applied to a variety of historical and contemporary subjects, periods, or politics. For example, artworks such as Damien Hirst's diamond-encrusted platinum skull have re-kindled debates about artistic decadence. It seems clear that the various manifestations of decadence could never—and cannot now—be articulated, illustrated, or even imagined independently of a particular complex of cultural, moral, or socio-political conditions. But how does decadence figure into other disciplines? What does decadence look like in the twenty-first century? Are exquisite excesses inevitable, or even necessary?

The Dalhousie Association of Graduate Students in English (DAGSE) invites submissions for paper presentations for "Decadence: An Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference." We welcome proposals from students at all levels and in all areas of graduate study. This three-day conference will be held August 15-17, 2014 at Dalhousie University, located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and will investigate the symptoms and effects of decadence as a literary, artistic, historical, and socio-cultural phenomenon.

We invite proposals for papers (15-20 minutes) on themes and subjects including, but not limited to:

  • Decay and decline; the erosion of discipline, morals, ethics, and empires
  • Neoliberalism: patterns of production and consumption
  • Decadence and the Ivory Tower
  • Sexuality and gender; hypersexuality and erotomania
  • Aestheticism, Symbolism, and fin-de-siècle literature
  • Decadence abroad: the French Decadents, the "Lost Generation," et al.
  • The Dandy, the flâneur, the bon viveur: decadence and self-fashioning
  • Decadence and modernity
  • Aristocratic and political excesses
  • Decadence in/and art; "degenerate" art
  • Decadence and religion
  • Physical, aesthetic, or intellectual pleasures
  • Foodies, food blogs, and the rise of the gourmet
  • Affluenza: decadence as illness
  • Reality TV, Internet Celebrities, "slacktivism"
  • Health and Fitness, HGH, plastic surgery, and biohacking

Keynote Speakers:

Dr. Julia M. Wright (Dalhousie University) - Julia M. Wright is Professor of English and Associate Dean Research in the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, as well as a Former Canada Research Chair. She is the author of Representing the National Landscape in Irish Romanticism (Syracuse UP, 2014), and has published extensively on her research interests, which include cultural studies, nationalism in Europe, Irish literature, nineteenth-century British literature, and the gothic.

Dr. David Howard (Nova Scotia College of Art & Design) – David Howard is Associate Professor of Historical and Critical Studies. He has published extensively in a variety of fields, including the history, politics, and theory of modernism and postmodernism in the United States and Canada after World War II.

Submission: Please submit a 250-word abstract plus a 50-word biographical statement that includes your name, current level of graduate study, affiliated university, and email address to dagse.conference@gmail.com.

Include the words "conference abstract" in subject line, and include name on the cover letter only.

New Deadline: May 23, 2014. Accepted presenters will receive notification by early June.

Contact the organizers at dagse.conference@gmail.com if you have questions about the conference. Visit the conference website at http://www.dal.ca/faculty/arts/english/news-events/dagse-conference.html.