BCLA Arthur Terry Prize 2017

The British Comparative Literature Association offers an annual prize for an essay written in English on any aspect of comparative literature, in memory of Arthur Terry (1927–2004), who served as President of the BCLA for many years. The aim of the Prize is to recognise work of outstanding merit at Master’s level. There are three prizes of £100, £50,and £30 and the winning entrants are also given one-year free BCLA membership.

The deadline for application is 12 noon on Friday 1 September 2017. The judges are members of the Association’s Executive Committee. The prizes will be awarded at the BCLA Postgraduate General Meeting in November 2017. Winning entries are also eligible for publication in full on the website.

More information, including conditions for entry, can be found here.

CFP: ‘Bad Kind’: The Dark Energy of the Literary System (Amiens)

Interdisciplinary Conference, « Mauvais genre » : l’énergie noire du système littéraire, ‘Bad Kind’: The Dark Energy of the Literary System, Amiens (France), Logis du Roy, 15-17 March 2018


The Centre d’Études et de Recherches sur les Contacts Littéraires et Linguistiques (CERCLL, EA 4283), Université de Picardie Jules Verne.

Coordinators: Kevin Perromat (Assoc. Pr.  Latin American Literature)

Georges Bê Duc (Assoc. Pr. Modern Chinese Literature)



Bad literature is damned to oblivion. Focused mostly on valuable texts, our academic knowledge of the literary world is restricted to an extremely exclusive selection among its potential objects of research. Invariably, good taste filters literary materials in spite of its proven versatility in the course of history, and in spite of the instability not only of the canon of ‘great texts’, but also of the institutions in charge of its transmission. Consequently, texts of different sorts are discarded into darkness: failed and amateur works, venal writing, as well as literary forgeries and transgressions such as plagiarism. Bad literature includes most often pulp and popular literature (paraliterature) as well. Nevertheless, what if the rejected ‘bad taste’ was in fact similar to dark energy, which is invisible but probably predominant in the Universe?

The literary space allows a plurality of possibilities of existence, circulation and creation of value which are fundamental to the aims and scope of this conference. In sharp contrast to the well-established monumental landmarks of the High Literature, amorphous masses of neglected, despised or forgotten texts fall into darkness. However, ‘good’ literature seems to depend on the ‘bad kind’, at least as the necessary background –a dark, anonymous and heteroclite one– to exist and be valued. Besides this obvious role in the creation of value, what are the functions of bad literature in the whole economy of the literary system? Concerning our aesthetic criteria, which rely chiefly upon the available literary tradition, to what extent they are not the result of our predecessors’ judgements?

 Suggested Topics

Bad literature

–          ‘Bad genres’: pornography, pulp, teenager literature, best-sellers, chick lit, etc.

–          Historical evolution of offenses and literary transgressions: plagiarism, forgeries, ghost-writers, testament betrayals, etc.

–          Individual case studies: rejected manuscripts, auteurs maudits, epigones, literary folly (fous littéraires), failed texts, minor works…

Bad literature uses

–          Bad literature uses within the strategies developed in the literary field: polemical, critical, rhetorical, ideological, etc.

–          Bad literature uses in literary taste formation and writing learning.

–          Bad literature as caution and boundary of literary norms and standards.

Bad literature values

–          Historiographical gaps and forgotten territories: discourses/ literatures/ authors/ periods vanished, banned, ignored by literary history.

–          (Re)valorisation of bad literature: revision of literary values, (re)discovery and (re)valorisation of ‘literary detritus’, procedures of recovery in literary historiography.

–          Relationships between bad literature, the Canon and the literary institutions.

Abstracts in English or French (up to 500 words) are to be sent to mauvaise.litterature@gmail.com  by September 30th2017.

CFP: (Un)Ethical Futures: Utopia, Dystopia & Science Fiction

(Un)Ethical Futures: Utopia, Dystopia & Science Fiction, Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, 16 & 17 December 2017 Organised by Monash University and the University of Warwick, funded by the Monash/Warwick Alliance.

About the conference

(Un)Ethical Futures is a two-day interdisciplinary conference exploring the ethical concerns of utopia, dystopia and science fiction. As we find the world in a state of significant social and political uncertainty, representations of more (or less) ethical futures can help us understand the impulses driving society today, and our hopes and fears for the future. The conference will feature keynote addresses, interactive workshops and concurrent panels.

Keynote speakers

Professor Emeritus Andrew Milner (Monash University & University of Warwick) and Associate Professor Jacqueline Dutton (University of Melbourne)

Workshop leaders

Dr Sascha Morrell (Monash University) and Dr Meg Mundell (author of Black Glass & Things I Did for Money)

Call for papers

Deadline: 13 August 2017

The conference will engage with a wide range of disciplines across the humanities, arts, and social sciences, including literary studies, media studies, history, philosophy, and cultural studies. The conference themes also span multiple genres and modes, from science fiction (sf) about the near or distant future, to alternative histories about better or worse presents, to fantastic stories about utopian or dystopian societies. The conference’s focus on ethics allows for a range of topics, including environmental ethics and climate change, human bioethics, animal ethics, the ethical use of technology, ethics of alterity and the ethical treatment of others, as well as related issues of social justice.

Possible areas of engagement include, but are not limited to:

Environmental ethics in speculative climate fiction (“cli-fi”)

Bioethical issues in sf, including biopunk and cyberpunk

The treatment or representation of animals, artificial intelligence, aliens or other posthuman or non-human entities in utopia, dystopia and sf

Historical and literary attempts at creating real or fictional utopian communities

Utopian and dystopian dimensions of Indigenous literature and traditions

Critiques of colonialism, racism, sexism, and institutional abuses in utopia, dystopia and sf

Philosophy, ethics and the utopian impulse

Politics, activism, social justice and ethics in sf and its fan communities

Ethics, alterity and literary form in speculative fiction

We invite the submission of proposals for 20-minute papers. We also welcome proposals for panels (three 20-minute papers) and readings of original creative work, including short fiction and poetry (up to 20 minutes’ duration). Proposals should comprise a title, abstract (200–300 words), and a brief author bio (100 words).

Please submit proposals via email to utopias-conference@monash.edu by 13 August 2017.

Following the conference, convenors will circulate a call for submissions for a special issue of Colloquy: text, theory, critique, which will publish research peer-reviewed articles, as well as creative writing and book reviews, arising from the conference proceedings.

New MA program in Comparative Literature at UC Davis

The Department of Comparative Literature at UC Davis is pleased to announce the launch of a new two-year, thesis-based MA program. This freestanding M.A. program will prepare students for doctoral research or professional employment. The program combines core courses on the theory and practice of comparison with broad opportunities for work in specific languages and literatures. Students will write a Masters thesis with the support of a thesis committee and a collaborative thesis-writing group. The first round of applications will be due by 15 January 2018. For more information see here, or contact Stefan Uhlig at shuhlig@ucdavis.edu.

CFP: The American Weird: Ecologies & Geographies (Göttingen)

The American Weird: Ecologies & Geographies, University of Göttingen, April 12-14, 2018, North American Section of the English Department in cooperation with the Institute for English and American Studies of the University of Oldenburg

“The one test of the really weird is simply this—whether or not there be excited in the reader a profound sense of dread, and of contact with unknown spheres and powers.”
—H.P. Lovecraft, “Supernatural Horror in Literature” (1927)

 “This whole world’s wild at heart and weird on top.” —David Lynch, Wild at Heart (1990)

For H.P. Lovecraft, the weird conveys “a subtle attitude of awed listening, as if for the beating of black wings or the scratching of outside shapes and entities on the known universe’s utmost rim.” Taking its cue from Lovecraft’s enduringly influential conceptualization, this conference examines and broadens the notion of weirdness towards an ecology and geography of the weird as a new field of theoretical and practical resonances. What we call The American Weird comprises not only an aesthetics evoked by literary practices or films from the genres of the gothic or horror, but also by other forms of cultural expression, such as music, sculpture, photography, and performance art. The conference theme also aims to address new theoretical perspectives on humanity’s relation to the world, perspectives that have recently been proposed by what might be called the “new demonologists” (e.g. Graham Harman, Eugene Thacker, and others).

Against the backdrop of new ontologies and epistemologies of the weird, the following questions will form the conceptual backbone of The American Weird: What are the ecologies and geographies of the weird today, and how are they conceived, perceived, and reworked? Which strands of contemporary critical theory and philosophy have engaged in a dialogue with the discourses of and on the weird, and what is specifically “American” in The American Weird? If weirdness is more than a mere index of parody and/or subversion, how might one conceive of a politics or an ethics of the weird?

These and related questions on The American Weird will be explored in a three-day conference at the University of Göttingen. Possible topics, which can come from different genres, historical periods, and/or media include, but are not restricted to:

–                American literature from Charles Brockden Brown and Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories to the authors of “the new weird,” like Jeff VanderMeer, China Miéville, and Thomas Ligotti. What are the aspects and intricacies of the literary evolution of the weird in America? What is specifically American about this evolution? What has changed in weird literature since the publication of Lovecraft’s essay on “Supernatural Horror in Literature,” on both a poetic and political level?

–                the sculptural work of artists such as Lydia Benglis, Louise Bourgeois, Charles Ray, and others. How does this type of artistic practice negotiate normativities and weirdness? How do the materials, size, and content matter of their art contribute to the way they subvert viewing habits and expectations?

–                the music of The American Weird,  from the musical instruments of Harry Partch, via artists like Tom Waits or Mike Patton, all the way to the tunes of Joanna Newsom and the “New Weird America” or “Freak Folk” movement, and the protagonists of so-called “outsider music” such as Daniel Johnston or Wesley Willis. What exactly is necessary to make music weird or “outsider”? Is it the actual music, the self-presentation of the artists, their perception (or lack thereof), their non-affiliation with the industry?

–                the photography of Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman, and others. What are the liminal spaces that open up between the camera’s alleged “reality effect” and evocations of weird America and its “freaks”? How does Sherman challenge notions like subjectivity and objectivity and what effects and affects are contained in her “vomit pictures”?

–                the eco art, land art, or bio art of Robert Smithson, Joe Davis, and others. How do these practices expand the notion of what counts as art, where it begins and ends? What and where are the locales in which it takes place, grows, and decays? Does the participation of plants or bacteria in a dynamic artwork redistribute agencies in the process of creating art and constitute a truly hybrid mode of being beyond the nature-culture divide?

–                the filmic visions of Tod Browning, David Lynch, David Cronenberg, and others, as well as recent TV-series that resonate with the aesthetics of the weird, such as True Detective, The Walking Dead, and Stranger Things. How to film the weird? Is there a moving image of American weirdness?

–                the comics and graphic novels of Robert Crumb, Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes, and others. How to picture The American Weird in separate panels and what is specific about this kind of narrating weirdness?

–                the different theoretical approaches which assess the cultural productions of The American Weird, from subcultural discourses to contemporary materialism, ecocriticism, and realism. What is the function of the weird as a concept vis-à-vis notions of the uncanny, the grotesque, the abject, and the carnivalesque? What are the milieus, theories, histories, and practices of The American Weird?

We invite scholars of American studies and related fields such as cultural studies, film and media studies, comparative literature, art history, and philosophy to submit a short abstract (approx. 300 words) and a short bio-statement by August 15, 2017 to the conference organizers Julius Greve (julius.greve@uni-oldenburg.de) and Florian Zappe (florian.zappe@phil.uni-goettingen.de). The conference will take place from April 12-14, 2018 at the University of Göttingen and is organized by the North American Section of the English Department in cooperation with the Institute for English and American Studies of the University of Oldenburg.