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Graduate Conference

About the Annual Graduate Conference

Each spring, the Comparative Literature M.A. and Ph.D. students organize a graduate conference that stands out for its distinctive keynote speakers and international contributors. Typically addressing topics related to interdisciplinarity, the conference continues to attract broad attention from students and scholars throughout the humanities, arts, and social sciences. In recent years, the conferences have been organized around an overarching theme "Literature, Politics, Aesthetics."

Current Conference 

The Ninth Graduate Conference in Literature, Politics, and Aesthetics:
(Re)Reading: Navigating Space|Time|Frontiers
March 31-April 1, 2017
University Downtown Center
Keynote Speaker: Cecilia Konchar Farr, Chair of English, Carondelet Scholar, and Professor of English and Women's Studies at St. Catherine University. Her book The Ulysses Delusion: Rethinking Standards of Literary Merit was released in 2016 (Palgrave Macmillan)
The question and experience of reading becomes more and more urgent as we rethink modes and practices of reading. How do our current practices dissolve, shift, or reinforce master narratives of disciplinary reading? How does the text resist imposition of borders, methods, and normalization?
This conference seeks to interrogate different notions, methods, theories, and practices of reading. How does the text prompt us to revise our methods? How do authors and texts resist simple or neat classification, and what, if anything, do we do about it? Methods such as close reading [New Criticism], detached reading [David Damrosch], and distant reading [Franco Moretti] propose ways of approaching texts — yet what do these look like in practice? What is the state of reading (in) academic disciplines [Gayatri Spivak]? Possible proposals are welcome from all disciplines that rely and reflect on reading as a critical exercise; proposals may address, but are not limited to, the following topics:
•Practices and modes of reading [detached, distant reading; explication de texte]
•Discipline-specific reading/reading the discipline
•Questioning world literature
•Reading (through/in) translation; translation as a product of reading
•Pre-, post-, neo-, colonial reading
•Recovering and rereading lost stories/storytelling [e.g., Walter Benjamin]
•Reading the oral/aural text 
•Political construction of bodies and narratives [collective or communal]
•Reading the visual [including maps, emoji, memes/gifs]

Past Conferences 


Sites of Decay, March 13-14, 2015

Decay calls upon a variety of meanings. It can be defined as decomposition over time, or as site of decomposed material; as the processional decrease in material magnitude; or as a displacement of organic power. Decay places and takes place. Decay may be erosion, both from outside and from within. Decay negotiates, monumentalizes, ossifies and ruins. The eroded sites invoke ludic aspects of decay's simultaneous presence and absence. Its discourse draws attention to spatio-temporal flux, and further renders discontinuities, creases and folds at decay's various sites. The discourse of decay centers in ideal conceptions of corporeal, aesthetic, political, and cultural sites. Decay can be manifest in death, disease, contamination, transgression. Ruins, monuments, bodies, borders, texts all serve as its locales.


Literature, Politics, Aesthetics: Jacques Rancière and the Politics of A-Disciplinarily, March 28-29, 2014
Interdisciplinarity has become a buzzword across the humanities; the term usually implies that scholars make use of the tools of another discipline while remaining within the boundaries of their own. The French philosopher Jacques Rancière points to the impossibility of this project, describing his work as "a-disciplinary" or "in-disciplinary." We propose a conference about Rancière for three reasons: firstly, he takes up questions and concepts that belong to multiple disciplines; secondly, his ideas have been adopted within different disciplines; and lastly, Rancière himself theorized the nature of disciplines and disciplinary boundaries.


Literature, Politics, and Aesthetics: The Production of Knowledge and the Future of the University, March 8-9, 2013
Neoliberal policies have restructured the university, disciplinary knowledge, and the disciplines themselves. With the formation of the 'for-profit' university, profit-bearing disciplines are valorized, student loans increase drastically, and humanities departments are pressured to redefine themselves in the face of intrusive economic demands. But where does this leave the humanities? What is the status of knowledge production given economic deregulation and privatization shaping the present and future of the university?


Forms of Life: Literature, Politics, Aesthetics, March 2-3, 2012
What comprises the matrix within which a given language has meaning? How is meaning constructed and how is it operative across social, cultural, and linguistic impasses? How is conflict and antagonism orchestrated both across and within disparate forms of life? To interrogate the emergence of sense as well as the conflicts that arise as a result of making sense, we welcome submissions that theorize the concerns outlined above with a particular eye toward their theorization as forms of life. In this way, we seek submissions that span disciplinary boundaries and topics, broadly speaking, related to literature, linguistics, politics, alternative and utopian imaginaries, aesthetics, and tactics of resistance.


Sexuality Across the Disciplines, April 30, 2010
This interdisciplinary graduate conference seeks to consider the intersections between literature and other humanities and social sciences fields, including anthropology, sociology, philosophy, art history, history, and how these fields interpret, understand, and/or engage issues of sexuality. The conference will be held in LT 1506 from 8:30 am to 2:00 pm. It will be followed by a roundtable discussion. Free and open to the public.


Inhabiting the Transnational, February 20, 2009
The Department of Comparative Literature presents a conference on "Inhabiting the Transnational," Friday, February 20, in LT 1506 (9:00-12:30 p.m.) and in LT 1406A (1:30-4:30 p.m.). For questions and program information please contact Gisela Brinker-Gabler ( or Annemarie Fischer ( Free and open to the public.

Last Updated: 3/6/17