Madison Graduate Conference on English Language & Literature 2018
Nationalism and Apocalypse, Now and Then
February 23-24, 2018
The University of Wisconsin-Madison
Keynote Speaker: Prof. Colin Dayan, Vanderbilt University
Scholars have more or less univocally rejected nationalism as a viable political program in the global north. The return of hardline nationalist political projects to the mainstream of political discourse suggests that, though we may be done with nationalism, it is not yet done with us. The Bush era in the United States saw a resurgence of American exceptionalism in response to September 11th. This is not to say that Americans ever stopped believing in their own national exceptionality, only that it rose to the status of a racialized, rhetorical wedge by which domestic and foreign policy could be effectively justified. The global financial crisis of 2008 brought nationalism back to center-stage in Europe, where the nation-state acted as the medium by which the “dead weight” of struggling members of the European Union were cut off, and blood-and-soil nationalism has returned to these places in kind. In more recent years we have also seen a proliferation of popular secessionist movements in places as diverse as the British Isles, Catalonia, Sudan, Kosovo, Myanmar and Rojava. How can humanistic scholarship help us to parse these recent developments and their effects? What, in short, is the relationship between political nationalism and cultural production, and how has the history of this relationship led us to this moment?
Implicated in all of this, meanwhile, is the renewal of an apocalyptic atmosphere not seen since the height of the Cold War. This has taken the classic form of a tacit and daily anxiety about outright nuclear conflict but also manifests in other ways: radar images of three large and voracious hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean cannot help but suggest that we have passed a tipping point for the maintenance of a habitable planet. In other sectors, certain Marxists read the rising degrees of automation and financialization in the world economy, the increasing inability of the labor market to accommodate the population of the globe, and the oppressive “solutions” to this problem in the form of mass incarceration and refugee crises as harbingers of the imminent collapse of capitalism. Is the simultaneous development of these eschatological worldviews a coincidence, or might there be an underlying reason for their rise? Are there ways of imagining the future that see in it a beginning rather than an end?
While they may be unique, the problems that confront us today are in no way new. The concepts and practices of nationalism and apocalypse have a long and troubled history about which much remains to be said. How does this history contribute to the present and the way in which we understand it? How, conversely, does the history of the nation and of eschatology look in light of the developments we have sketched above?
For the 14th installment of MadLit, we seek to bring together graduate students from diverse fields to reckon with these urgent social problems. Our contention is that these are not only technical issues having to do with better or worse statecraft, better or worse governance—they also have deep implications for the study of culture. We take as this as our fundamental question: what happens when we think cultural production alongside nationalism and/or apocalypse? How does each term respond to and modify the others? We especially welcome papers that address the following topics:
- The relationship of nationalism and/or apocalypse to aesthetic production
- The role of the university in anti-nationalist political projects in the global north
- The viability or desirability of nationalist political projects in the global south
- The role of race, gender, and sexuality in the nationalist or apocalyptic imaginary
- The history of the apocalyptic imagination in cultural production
- Ways of imagining the future that depend on neither the apocalyptic nor the nationalistic, whether posthuman, communist, or liberal-democratic
- Whether and how national categories persist in theories of world, transnational, or planetary literature
- Legal discourses that grapple with the relationship of the nation to mass migration and diaspora
- The role of ecology and the environment in eschatological imaginaries
Graduate students from any and all disciplines with research on these topics are encouraged to submit abstracts for:
- Individual panel presentations of 15-20 minutes. Abstracts should include a title and a summary of your argument, and be no more than 250 words.
- Self-organized panels comprising three presentations of 15-20 minutes. Abstracts should describe each presentation individually (as above), and describe the cohesion of the panel as a whole. No more than 850 words.
Please also include your name and institutional affiliation. Email abstracts as an attachment to email@example.com by December 15, 2017.
We also invite submissions for the following special, semi-structured roundtable on the recent work of keynote speaker Colin Dayan:
Roundtable on Colin Dayan’s With Dogs at the Edge of Life
A roundtable discussion on an excerpt from Dayan’s With Dogs at the Edge of Life (Columbia UP 2015) and responding to her conference keynote. We will discuss how Dayan asks us to reconsider the ‘human’ in humanism, global politics, genres of writing, and the entanglements between animals and humans. Those interested in participating should submit 100-200 word proposals explaining how their research is relevant to the roundtable and outlining a few questions for the roundtable to consider. For questions or more details, contact Laura Perry firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year’s MadLit will also feature panels sponsored by several colloquia affiliated with the English department. See the rationale and formats for these panels below and, if interested, submit abstracts directly to the contact listed with that panel.
The FELIX Series of New Writing Presents:
Erasure and Redaction: Poetic Action in the 21st Century
Panel and Roundtable Discussion
Crossing out what cannot, should not be known. Black smears across the page, the purposeful or coincidental gaps in the archive, and even the content that exceeds documentation. Who and what is being silenced? Who is doing the silencing? What are the ethics of speaking out?
Jenny Holzer, Redaction Paintings (2006)
We live in a moment when documentation equals existence under the state: we are forced to appear. It is little surprise that erasure and redaction—modernist poetic techniques but also common state-sanctioned tactics—take new form in the hands of contemporary poets. Within a larger cultural milieu in which US militarism across the globe is redacted from public discourse, as in the case of the US’s continued military presence in Niger, and understanding Donald Trump’s failure to speak the name of Sgt. La David Johnson’s name as a kind of redaction, the politics of erasure poetry deploy state-sanctioned writing practices to speak state-sanctioned violence. But what can employing the neocolonialist tactics of the state accomplish in a work of poetic expression?
The FELIX Series of New Writing invites submissions for a panel on the poetics of erasure and redaction. This panel is inspired by the poetry of Solmaz Sharif and Philip Metres, Christina Sharpe and Nicholas Mirznoeff’s theorizations of redaction, and in light of Colin Dayan’s work on nationalism and apocalypse. Presentations are welcomed from a variety of approaches and inspirations that fit the theme.
Papers on aspects related to erasure and redaction may also address the following:
- Political nationalism and cultural production
- Nationalism and anti-nationalism
- Aesthetics of erasure and redaction
- The ethics of reproducing/reprinting violence
- Reading redaction/erasure
- Writing and theorizing process when approaching erasure and redaction
- Documentation and social (in)visibility
- Archival gaps and challenging grand historical narratives
The format of this panel will include shorter presentations in order to interrogate the ethics, politics, and aesthetics of the poetry of erasure from a variety of perspectives. Paper presentations or creative pieces of 7-8 minutes are welcome. Following the presentation, a moderated roundtable discussion will take place between participants. This panel will be held on Saturday, February 24, 2017.
Send a 250 word abstract email@example.com by December 15, 2017.
The Graduate Association of Medieval Studies presents:
Medievalisms and White Nationalisms
The contemporary resurgence of fascism and Nazism in the West includes a variety of engagements with and imaginations of medieval peoples and cultures: medieval symbols emblazoned on shields and tattooed on bodies, fetishisms of medieval languages and scripts, appeals to medieval heritages of racial and ethnic identities, idealizations of returns to medieval pre-modern societies, and reenactments in the woods of medieval pagan religious rites and mythologies, among others. Many medievalists are at once caught by surprise and reminded of a long history of complicities of medieval studies in white nationalisms and white supremacy. This roundtable-style panel asks: What are some of the various relationships between medievalisms and white nationalisms in the past and in the present? And what might be relationships between the two in the future? The panel seeks abstract submissions for short (approximately five-minute) paper presentations from medievalists and non-medievalists alike that respond to these and other related questions. The panel will include ample time for discussion among panelists and members of the audience.
Please send a 250-word abstract to firstname.lastname@example.org by December 15, 2017.
The Modernisms/Modernities Colloquium presents:
Modernists, Modernities, and the Nation
Whether coming to terms with nationalism in the face of the apocalyptic context of the two world wars or reassessing the role of national literatures in the global marketplace, modernist writers and scholars have long had fraught relationships with the concept of the nation. This panel seeks to explore what juxtaposing ideas like modernism, modernity, and the nation can offer us now. How do the fresh perspectives of new materialism, ecocriticism, archipelagic studies, or planetary/geomodernisms ask us to rethink the nation? How might postcolonial or Marxist considerations of race, gender, sexuality, the nonhuman or other theoretical readings reframe our understanding of the nation? Could a return to the nation benefit the shifting fields of modernism and twentieth-century literary studies? Papers spanning the twentieth century, nations, and genres are encouraged.
Submit abstracts to: email@example.com.
The Middle Modernity Colloquium presents:
This year’s MadLit theme resonates with the V21 Collective’s turn to strategic presentism: “think[ing] critically about the past in the present in order to change the present” and “asking how the Victorian era might help us imagine alternative futures to the various mass extinctions that loom just over the horizon of the present.” For this year’s conference, the Middle Modernity Colloquium is seeking abstracts that either employ strategic presentism or that respond to the effectiveness or productivity of strategic presentism in the face of today’s crises. Accepted abstracts will be submitted to the conference organizers as a Middle Modernity sponsored panel. All abstracts not accepted to this panel proposal will be forwarded to the general conference submissions.
Please submit abstracts of no more than 250 words for the Middle Modernity panel on strategic presentism to Aaron Vieth (firstname.lastname@example.org) by December 15, 2017. Abstracts should include a tentative title.
Additionally, the Middle Modernity Colloquium is gauging interest in a roundtable discussion on strategic presentism to take place during the lunch break on Saturday, February 24. Interested participants are not required to produce anything for this discussion but will be expected to read the “V21 Forum on Strategic Presentism” in Victorian Studies 59.1 (Autumn 2016) for the conversation. Tentatively, this discussion will be more of a brown bag style. However, if there is enough interest we will look into catering the discussion. Please RSVP for the roundtable discussion on strategic presentism to Aaron Vieth (email@example.com) by December 15, 2017.