NeMLA Seminar: Identity, Politics, and Universals in Literary Theory and Beyond (30/9/2014: 30-3/4-5/2015)

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Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
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In recent years, the position that argues that human actions are guided by certain Universals (biological, cognitive, emotive, and moral) that are common to all humanity has been contested. Literary traditions such as poststructuralist thought represented by the views of thinkers like Michael Foucault have seen human identity exclusively as a product of class struggle. However, alternate views represented by Martha Nussbaum and several others have challenged this by claiming that human identity is guided by certain non-coercive universals that determine how human beings identify and respond to society. These scholars have shown that through such universal identifications, human identity could transcend exclusionary limitations of society, nation, class and religion, to connect with a larger collectivity of human existence. These questions are a part of recent studies in Humanities and Social Sciences that examine how human responses to different social situations (individual and group identifications) address larger concerns of Human Rights and Justice, empathy, welfare of society and ecology. Issues of Identity and Universals have been addressed by prominent contemporary philosophers like Marc Hauser (Moral Minds: The Nature of Right and Wrong), Martha Nussbaum (Upheavals of Thought), cultural theorists like Patrick Hogan (Mind and its Stories: Narrative Universals and Human Emotions), Human Rights scholars like Jack Donnelly ('The Relative Universality of Human Rights')

This seminar seeks to examine how literatures both at regional and global levels are invested in the production of certain ethical, political and geo-historical universals. Consequently, the aim is also to attend to the specificity of certain western/ non-Western social, political, and intellectual formations that challenge traditional assumptions regarding identity construction, human empathy, and social existence. More precisely, this seminar seeks to address the studies of literatures and theory that defend or challenge the views that foreground 'identity' as a part of certain universals of human existence.

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Deadline: September 30, 2014

The Northeast Modern Language Association will meet in Toronto, Ontario, for its 46th annual convention. Toronto is Canada's hub of international arts and culture, known for its diverse culinary scene and multicultural urban vitality. NeMLA convention delegates can explore galleries and museums, shop at historic markets, and discover vibrant international villages—all within a short commute of the convention hotel, the famous Fairmont Royal York, in the heart of downtown Toronto. More information is available at the convention 2015 page, and via email at
We look forward to receiving your submissions.

Best regards,

Arnab Roy
Department of Literatures, Languages and Cultures,
University of Connecticut