Thing[s] Matter

University of Virginia Graduate English Conference


March 13th-14th, 2008
Keynote Speaker: Bill Brown
(Edward Carson Waller Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago)

Call For Papers

iPhones and Ikea, megastores and Manolo Blahniks, falling buildings and rising temperatures – with the quickening pace of globalization, neo-imperialism, and digitalization, and the rise of neo-liberal approaches to politics, economics, and social-engineering, scholars throughout the academy have become increasingly concerned with the decline of the natural and the human, and the concomitant rise of commodities and material culture, the ascension of things.  Yet things have always been with us, and in order to understand their unique role in contemporary global society and unique significance to contemporary literary and cultural studies, we must also understand their past, as sacred objects, crude commodities, and cherished bearers of cultural memory.  What role do things play in our daily lives? What roles have they played in our past?  Is there any room for humanity in a world of things?

The Graduate English Students’ Association in the University of Virginia seeks to explore these and other thing-ly matters at our annual conference, to be held March 13-14th, 2008.  Creative, trans-, inter-, and cross-disciplinary approaches to the matter at hand are encouraged.  These include, but are not limited to: literary and cultural studies, sociology, anthropology, physical and life sciences, design, history, economics, philosophy, and religious studies. 

Abstract proposals

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Literature and material culture
  • New materialisms
  • Objects and object relations in psychoanalysis
  • Book and manuscript transmission and culture
  • Fetishism
  • Literary phenomenology and the phenomenology of literature
  • Consumerism, digital media, and globalization
  • Sacred objects
  • Monuments and national identity

Please submit abstracts of no more than 300 words (or panel proposals of no more than 700 words, including descriptions of individual papers), making note of planned A/V needs, to the graduate committee no later than February 15, 2008. (No attachments, please.) Please address any other inquiries to the same address.


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The University of Virginia English Department

The UVa Graduate English Student Association (GESA)

PGraduate English Student Association (GESA), University of Virginia