I'm thrilled to be giving the keynote address for “The Poetics of Place: Performing Selves In and Beyond Cities,” the 13th Annual English Studies Graduate Student Conference at the Université de Montréal on March 10-11, 2016. The event aims to explore the poetics of (non)urban spaces and the ways in which the city serves as a catalyst for self-making and -unmaking in literature and art. Participants are asked to investigate the impact of space on the self, and vice versa, through theories of space, translation, postcolonialism, and ecocriticism. The working title for my talk is "Breath's Compass, and the City as Nostalgic Formation."
See you in Montreal!
The Poetics of Place: Performing Selves In and Beyond Cities March 10-11 2016
In The Production of Space, Henri Lefebvre describes the city as “a production and reproduction of human beings by human beings.” This conference aims to explore the poetics of (non)urban spaces and the city as a catalyst for self-making and -unmaking in the various localized manifestations of the self in literature and art. We envision metropolitan, (post)industrial, rural, etc. spaces as socially inflected images with the performative self at the core of their becoming.
If the city is a collage of social relations, is this textual community legible to each individual? Do each of the disappearing selves in Auster’s The New York Trilogy or Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, for example, have equal access to the meanings they produce? How does the marginal or alienated self, like Benjamin’s flâneur or Sontag’s photographer, engage with the city? How do we translate the city? What lies in the gap between the named and unnameable? Might both the clamor and the silence of the city be read as a resistant discourse inflected by class, race, and gender? How does urban silence or complacency compare to the noise of public dissent currently erupting in cities across the globe?
This conference hopes to gather sketches of performative selves navigating the cityscape. Elizabeth Grosz sees bodies and cities as “assemblages or collections of parts” crossing thresholds and forming linkages between other selves and other spaces. How do these crossings and linkages create or deconstruct the self? How is the self performed inside and outside of the city? How is the complex and sometimes contradictory relationship between community and self portrayed in literary texts and cultural spaces?
We invite academic and creative submissions in English or French from graduate students for panels, papers, or performances that interrogate the city and the self from multiple disciplinary perspectives. We invite you to expand on this preliminary list of topics:
• Multilinguality and translation • Performative sexualities and identities • Difference, homogeneity, and state sovereignty • Imagined communities, nationalism, and nostalgia • Transnational subjectivity and challenges to national borders • Migrant and immigrant literatures • Futuristic cities, virtual spaces, and cyborgs • Postcolonial or decolonial cities • Social movements and urban interventions • Disappearing (in) cities • Ecocriticism and eco-cities