CFP: Brooklyn College Graduate English Conference

The Shifting Self: Radical Transfigurations
Brooklyn College Graduate English Conference
April 28, 2012
Keynote Speaker: Eileen Myles
“My narrative begins in media res, when many things have already taken place to make me and my story possible in language.  I am always recuperating, reconstructing, and I am left to fictionalize and fabulate origins I cannot know.”
– Judith Butler, “An Account of Oneself”
“Writing so as not to die, as Blanchot said, or perhaps even speaking so as not to die is a task, undoubtedly as old as the world.”
 – Michel Foucault, “Language to Infinity”
The self is not just a state of being but a continuous experiment in becoming.  The self remakes the world in its own image.  The self shifts, responding to the ever-changing outside world, and engages it.  Even the most subtle variation in the environment finds its equivalent in the self that perceives it.  But oftentimes the change does not come from an external source but from an internal shift.
The self perpetually seeks the rhetorical flourish of permission and personhood.  What are the linguistic barriers and conditions of possibility for the self in transition? Seeking to define meaning – shifting modes of discourse – the self is constructed upon the page and in the world. “To choose the flourish called the literal,” according to Samuel R. Delany, “is to perform the unspeakable.” Within Delany’s realm of the unspeakable lie the marginalized, the oppressed, and the voices of dissent. What are the constraints which exist for those who challenge and redefine textual space in an attempt at self-preservation, dismantling hierarchal systems of power and social control along the way?
After radical transformations – environmental shifts, impending knowledge of mortality through illness, aging, transplantations, exile, political upheavals, trauma and catastrophe – how does the self reconcile what was once, to what is and to what will become of its own being? Does an existential crisis occur?  How does this ameliorate or devalue the self’s potential to explore, in Butler’s terms, its narrative multiplicities? 
We invite submissions from all, including but not limited to literary studies of authors, texts and genres.  Possible topics may include the following:

  • Online Identities: Facebook, Twitter & Social Media Selves
  • Subjectivity In and Beyond Collective and Personal Literatures
  • Masks, Mirrors and the Boundaries of Perception
  • Doppelgangers: Doubling Representation
  • Captivity and Prison Narratives
  • Censorship and Self-expression
  • The Unattainable “I”: Limitation and Lack
  • The Sublimated Self: Persistence of the Unconscious
  • Confession and Epistolary Confession
  • The Prostitute Body in Media and Culture
  • Trauma and Disaster: The Outcomes of Upheaval
  • Illness Narrative and Narrative Medicine
  • The Occupation of Public Space
  • Writers-in-Exile and the Emigrant Experience
  • The Rite of Passage in Adolescent Literature
  • Boundary Crossings: Transformation and Travel
  • The Eternal Self and Transcendentalism
  • Return and Recurrence in Literature
  • Humiliation, Shame and Reclamation
  • Appropriating and Designating Identities
  • Peep Shows and Pornographic Persons: Red Light Recollections
  • Reality Television  and the New Celebrity
  • Deconstructing Able and Disabled Bodies
  • I Under the Influence: Addiction and the Limitations of Rehabilitation
  • Drag and Dress: Transvestitism, Transgender, and Trans Identity
  • Queer Theory and the Politics of Personhood
  • Reimagining Identity in Postcolonial Societies
  • Human and Bestial Contact in Medieval Literature
  • Religious and Spiritual Transformations

Abstracts of no more than 300 words are due February 24, 2012.  Send them by Word attachment to
About Steve Mentz 1265 Articles
I teach Shakespeare and the blue humanities at St. John's in New York City.

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