Stony Brook University
30th Annual English Graduate Conference
February 23rd, 2018
Dr. Lisa Duggan, NYU
Literature is a social act. Our encounters with literature, history, philosophy, and even science are informed by the world in which these encounters take place. No matter what text we choose, we are constantly and actively reading with a critical eye toward the present, trying to make sense of that present by excavating the cultural archives of the past. Such readings are precipitated in part by the fact that works of literature, history, philosophy and the like are steeped in and respond to their own sociopolitical context. And as the authors of the past found themselves working through the issues, concerns and anxieties that dominated their particular historical moment, we as readers in the present make use of their texts for the same purpose of sense-making. Our choice of text is also a social act, as evidenced by the resurgence in readership of texts such as 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Man in the High Castle. Something about the present moment has led readers across the world to seek in these and other texts a way to understand, and therefore to live and act in, the world around them. But this fascination with the social implications of literature is by no means unique to our time or place. Indeed, a text’s popularity at any given moment around the world stems from the text’s ability to speak and respond to the pressing issues of the time in which it was produced. Works of literature have the potential to not only influence the public consciousness but also bring about meaningful social reform. And as these texts become part of our cultural memory, everything that we read shapes the way in which we view, and thus act on, the world around us.
As academics, we cannot and should not solely read and write for our own community, but rather consider ways in which our own work can shape or effect change in the broader social and cultural landscape. Many of us have made the decision to bring the outside world both into the classroom and into our scholarship in the hope that our work will transcend the academe. One possible starting point to effecting change is the sharing of ideas, practices, methodologies, and experiences.
We invite proposals that interrogate our present moment or other unique sociohistorical conjunctures through readings of texts including but not limited to works of fiction, history and philosophy within a variety of media, namely literature, television and film. We also welcome pedagogical approaches to reading and writing as social acts. We are looking for critical interpretations not just of contemporary texts but also of novel approaches to classical/canonical works of varying genres that seek to help us better understand the current conjuncture and those that came before it. By using literature to make sense of past and present, we might then be able to make changes and influence what comes next.
Only members can participate in this group's discussions.