Calls for papers – Conferences taking place in September 2021

Rewriting War and Peace in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries: Contemporary British and American Literature
An online conference, 8-9 September 2021
Deadline for proposals: 3 May 2021

Since it is still uncertain what the health situation will be like in the next months, the research group “Rewriting War and Peace in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries: Contemporary British and American Literature” has decided to plan its first conference, “Rewriting War and Peace in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries: Contemporary British and American Literature”, as an online event, which is now scheduled for Wednesday 08 and Thursday 09 September 2021.

The major wars and conflicts of recent times (the two world wars, the Holocaust, the Spanish Civil war, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, the Falkland Islands War, the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War, among others) have affected the lives and writings of second-and third-generation witnesses in contexts widely separated from the wars themselves. The conference aims to explore whether contemporary literature can effectively establish adequate representational spaces for approaching and reconsidering these past wars. Bearing in mind the need to approach the experience of war with extreme caution to avoid either the anxiety involved in the representation of conflict or the comforting reassurance of relying on “grand (war) narratives,” our conference will critically reconsider both the issue of “authenticity” in the use of historical sources and the need to access and interpret the past from contemporary settings.

We aim to shed light on the ethical dimensions of war writing and on the possibilities of closure, resolution or consolation in contemporary British and American literature, and to assess whether literature can be of use in the politics of peace-making and conflict resolution, contributing to the formation of fairer, more egalitarian societies.

The keynote lectures will be given by:

  • Professor Jay Winter (Yale University): “Silences of the Great War: All the things we cannot hear”
  • Professor Kate McLoughlin (Oxford University): “Mesopotamia: Writing the Wars in Iraq?”
  • The novelist Rachel Seiffert: “Why do we write about war?”

We invite scholars of all career stages and representing various academic disciplines, including literary studies, theatre studies, film studies, memory studies, peace studies, gender studies, postcolonial studies, and other.

Three forms of presentation are encouraged: 20-minute conference papers, 60-minute roundtables consisting of 3-4 speakers (for which we will post instructions on our website) and 5-minute pecha kucha—lightning talks—for postgraduate participants to highlight their research.

Topics will be grouped around two main areas: (a) post-memory and (b) aesthetic articulations of war. The first is defined by attempts to recapture the immediacy of traumatic events that are not personally experienced but, instead, are socially apprehended through imaginative creativity; and the second severs links from the event’s participants or witnesses, though often imagining proxy figures to transmit authentification.

Suggested topics include but are not restricted to:

  • The Narration of War: Representational anxieties. Grey Areas: Authentic vs. fake narratives; literature vs history. From Modern to Postmodern Wars. The Narrative Quality of Historical Facts: Historiographic metafiction.
  • Gender and War: Destabilization of gender relations by war. Gender Opposition to War. Gender and the Impact of War. Gender Inequalities.
  • The Aftermath of War: Demobilisation and social integration. Memory, Memorialization and Reconciliation. The Healing Power of Nostalgia. Post-traumatic Testimonies of Conflict.
  • Representation of “Home” in the Aftermath of War. Haunted Spaces and Places. Gendered Spaces: Tension between domestic sphere and public arena.
  • Post-memory: “Familial” and “affiliative” aspects. Official vs. Unofficial “War-After Writings.” Post-memory and Representational Anxieties.
  • New Definitions of War and Peace. Conflict Transformation: If warfare is an extension of politics, is politics then an extension of warfare? Have civil liberties in peacetime been reduced as if we were at war?

Conference paper, roundtable and pecha kucha proposals should be no longer than 300 words in length and be accompanied by a short bio-note. Contributions will be peer evaluated, according to the significance of the topic, the importance of the contribution, and originality. Selected full manuscripts will appear in the conference proceedings to be published by the research group after the event.

Please submit proposals, indicating type of presentation, to rewritingwar2020@gmail.com by Monday 03 May 2021.

Although the working language of the conference is English, we welcome discussion of issues outside the English-speaking world.

(posted 15 March 2021)


Cosmopolitan Aspirations in English-Speaking Cinema and Television: 26th Annual SERCIA Conference
Universidad de Zaragoza, Spain, 8-10 September 2021
Deadline for proposals: April 9, 2021

It has become almost mandatory to start any piece on cosmopolitanism with a reference to Diogenes the Cynic (412-323 BC) and his famous claim “I am a citizen of the world”. Alluring as the phrase may sound to our 21st century ears, when uttered by Diogenes, it was an invitation to be a social outsider: the allegiance to humanity as a whole implied becoming an exile from the comforts of one’s place of birth and social group (Nussbaum 1994). Two thousand years later, Immanuel Kant considered that the achievement of a cosmopolitan order was a must “if the human race was not to consume itself in wars between nations and if the power of nation-states was not to overwhelm the freedom of individual” (Fine and Cohen 2002). Kant’s ideals about a cosmopolitan world order, cosmopolitan law and cosmopolitan hospitality became the foundation on which moral cosmopolitanism, understood as a philosophical and political project aimed at the creation of cosmopolitan political institutions and the development of a cosmopolitan civil society, started to be theorised. This cosmopolitan tradition became especially appealing in the 1990s, a decade that witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of apartheid, among other epochal changes, as well as the widespread use of the Internet and the emergence of the so-called network society. Cosmopolitanism became then a framework  (or a “methodology” in Ulrich Beck’s words) to try to understand and deal with some of the challenges of globalization: the increased mobilities of people and goods, the proliferation of global risks, the redefinition of borders and the proliferation of global media and virtual communities, among others (Beck 2000).

The development of cinema in the late nineteenth century fed into cosmopolitan aspirations of modern city life and an increasing desire for travel. Films crossed national borders and opened up spaces for spectators’ mediated engagement with difference. The history of cinema abounds in examples of filmmakers that abandoned national contexts as their immediate frame of reference and created their work from and for a cosmopolitan imagination. Orson Welles, Jules Dassin, Ernst Lubitsch, Fritz Lang, Max Ophüls and, more recently, Michael Haneke, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón and Yorgos Lanthimos immediately come to mind, but the list of travelling filmmakers, past and present, is much longer, and it includes names much more closely associated with a particular national or local identity, from Jean Renoir to Wong Kar-wai – not to mention, of course, travelling actors contributing to foster cosmopolitan aspirations, from Maurice Chevalier to Marion Cotillard and Charlotte Gainsbourg, from Louise Brooks to Marlene Dietrich, from Jean Seberg to Kristen Stewart, from Ingrid Bergman to Max von Sydow, from Jackie Chan to Maggie Cheung, from Dolores del Río to Penélope Cruz, from Sophia Loren to, yes, Clint Eastwood. The development of communication technologies since the 1980s has also led to the development of “globally dispersed productions.” Filmmakers, actors and technicians from all over the world form networks of international professionals collaborating beyond national differences. The outcome of these constant border-crossings have been innumerable films that have complicated national identities and showcased hybridity, and have explored the dynamic between the familiar and the stranger in a myriad ways. Similarly, from its inception, television brought other cultures and ways of seeing the world into the domestic space of one’s home. Digital television and multimedia platforms can now create cosmopolitan communities on demand. Audiovisual media have always played and are still playing a crucial role in the process that Beck refers to as the “cosmopolitanization” of the world. Yet, when compared to the existing literature on the issue in other areas, cosmopolitanism still remains a largely underexplored subject in film and television studies.

This conference will explore the ways in which cosmopolitan aspirations (and “their enemies” in Ulrich Beck’s words) have made their way into English-speaking cinema and television across different time periods, nations, genres and media. Areas to be explored include but are not limited to:

  • onscreen representations and constructions of cosmopolitan identities
  • the places of the cosmopolitan: borders, borderlands and global cities
  • the risk society: eco-cosmopolitanism
  • agents of cosmopolitanism onscreen: frequent travellers, tourists, migrants and refugees
  • cosmopolitanism and gender
  • cosmopolitan performances, performing cosmopolitanism
  • intimate encounters in a global context
  • visual and narrative articulations of the cosmopolitan
  • -osmopolitanism in film and television genres
  • cosmopolitan directors and stars. Celebrity cosmopolitanism
  • the limits and contradictions of onscreen cosmopolitanism
  • co-productions as cosmopolitan, global and/or transnational production strategies
  • cinematic and televisual representations of the global society
  • cosmopolitan film and television networks
  • globally-dispersed productions. Global industry, local labour
  • cosmopolitan communities and multimedia digital platforms
  • film and TV reception around the world: local, global and/or cosmopolitan audiences
  • cosmopolitanism and multilingual films, the politics of dubbing, subtitling and double versions

Keynote Speakers:
Juan Suárez (Universidad de Murcia)
Deborah Shaw (University of Portsmouth)

Scientific Committee:
María del Mar Azcona, Julia Echeverría, Pablo Gómez, Celestino Deleyto, David Roche, Nolwenn Mingant, Juan Suárez, Deborah Shaw.

Given the uncertainty of the current context, our intention is to hold a hybrid conference (attendees may deliver their papers online or in person). If this hybrid model were not possible, we would then switch to a fully-online conference.

Submission:
Please submit a 300-500 word abstract and short bio (120 words) in English by April 9, 2021 through the conference website: http://eventos.unizar.es/43243/upload/cosmopolitan-aspirations-in-english-speaking-cinema-and-television.html

Selected Bibliography
Anzaldúa, Gloria, 1999 (1987). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books.
Appiah, Kwame Anthony, 2006. Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers. New York: W. W. Norton.
Atkinson, Paul and Rebecca Strating. 2016. “Cosmopolitanism on Demand? Television and the Narrowing of Mediated Social Connection. ” In P. David Marshall et al., eds. Contemporary Publics: Shifting Boundaries in New Media, Technology and Culture. London: Palgrave MacMillan. 129-144.
Beck, Ulrich, 2009. World at Risk. Translated by Cieran Cronin. Cambridge and Malden: Polity Press.
Beck, Ulrich, “The Cosmopolitan Perspective: Sociology of the Second Age of Modernity.” British Journal of Sociology 51: 79-105.
Brown, Garrett Wallace and David Held, eds. 2010. The Cosmopolitanism Reader.  Cambridge and Malden: Polity Press. 17–26.
Calhoun, Craig, 2002. “The Class Consciousness of Frequent Travelers: Toward a Critique of Actually Existing Cosmopolitanism”. The South Atlantic Quarterly, 101: 4, 869–897, 871.
Cooper, Anthony and Rumford, Chris, 2011. “Cosmopolitan Borders: Bordering as Connectivity.” In Rovisco, Maria and Magdalena Nowicka, eds. 261–276.
Delanty, Gerard, ed. 2012. Routledge Handbook of Cosmopolitan Studies. London and New York: Routledge. 245-253.
Deleyto, Celestino, 2017. “Looking from the Border: A Cosmopolitan Approach to Contemporary Cinema.” Transnational Cinemas, 8:2, 95-112.
Glick Schiller, Nina and Andrew Irving, eds. 2017. Whose Cosmopolitanism? Critical Perspectives, Relationalities and Discontents. New York & Oxford: Berghahn, 160-174.
Littler, Jo, 2008. “I feel your pain”: Cosmopolitan Charity and the Public Fashioning of the Celebrity Soul’. Social Semiotics, 18:2, 237-251, 239.
Nussbaum, Martha C., 1994. “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism”. Boston Review, October 1. http://www.bostonreview.net/martha-nussbaum-patriotism-and-cosmopolitanism.
Nussbaum, Martha C., 2008. “Toward a Globally Sensitive Patriotism”, Daedalus, 137 (3), 78–93.
Rovisco, María and Nowicka, Magdalena, eds. 2011. The Ashgate Research Companion to Cosmopolitanism. Farnham: Ashgate. p. 1
Rumford, Chris, 2008. Cosmopolitan Spaces: Europe, Globalization, Theory. London: Routledge.
Sassen, Saskia, 1998. Globalization and Its Discontents: Essays on the New Mobility of People and Money. New York: The New York Press.
Schwartz, Vanessa R., 2007. “It’s so French”: Hollywood, Paris and the Making of Cosmopolitan Film Culture. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Sennett, Richard, 2002. “Cosmopolitanism and the Social Experience of Cities.” In Vertovec, Steven and Cohen, Robin, eds. 42-47.
Skrbis, Zlatko and Ian Woodward, 2013. Cosmopolitanism: Uses of the Idea. Los Angeles, London: Sage. p. 82.
Vertovec, Steven and Robin Cohen, eds. 2002. Conceiving Cosmopolitanism: Theory, Context and Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

(posted 26 February 2021)


Activism and Resistance
online, 9-11 September 2021
Deadline for submissions: 30 June 2021

Keynote Speakers: Grace Dillon, Radha D’Souza

Guest Creators: Jeannette Ng, Rivers Solomon, Neon Yang

In an age when Me Too, Black Lives Matter, Decolonise the Curriculum, Refugees Welcome, and movements for global solidarity with oppressed populations have become part of mainstream discourse, it is vital to re-examine the relationship between activism, resistance and the mass imagination vis-a-vis science fiction. As a genre dedicated to imagining alternatives, science fiction is an inherently radical space which allows for diverse explorations of dissent. It is, also, a space that has been rightfully critiqued for its historic inequities favouring white cishet men (as recently addressed by Jeanette Ng during the 2019 Hugo Awards among others). There needs to be reckoning with how precarious bodies engage in activism and resistance in the context of their material realities and restrictions. Therefore, we must deny universalising a single experience as “radical enough” and instead acknowledge how communities in the margins – queer, trans, disabled, neurodivergent, BIPOC, immigrants and refugees, religious minorities, indigenous populations, casualised workers, the homeless and unemployed – have specific ways of subverting and undermining the system, as well as specific stakes and reasons to do so. It is imperative to not only revisit how science fiction has been a space for activism and resistance, but also resist and challenge the genre’s shortcomings.

For our 2021 conference, the LSFRC welcomes submissions that explore the theme of “Activism and Resistance.” We recognise the urgency of this theme and the broad ways in which it can be interpreted and applied. We welcome contributions that explore SF as the site of activism and resistance, critical reflections of activism and resistance against SF’s tradition so far, and broader contributions on the topics of activism and resistance. We are especially keen to welcome practitioners, activists, change-makers and dissidents who are working to create a more equitable world. We do not adhere to strict reading of the term SF; instead, we encourage a widening of the genre to highlight and uplift different voices and perspectives. We invite proposals for papers, panels, workshops, protest and disruption sessions, performances, installations, and creative responses to the theme, and we would like to actively encourage alternative and innovative forms of presentation and engagement.

We are aware that academic conferences often have barriers to access and if you have any specific concerns, please do reach out, especially as the online format carries its own challenges (and benefits). We hope we can alleviate some of these concerns with the reassurance that paying for registration is completely optional.

Please email proposals (300 words + 50 word author bios) and/or enquiries to lsfrcmail@gmail.com by 30th June. For this conference, we are organising a track on gaming, SF and activism + resistance. If you would like to be considered for this track, please indicate this in your proposal.

Possible topics include:

  • Depictions and history of protest in SF
  • Anti-capitalism, anti-authoritarianism, anti-imperialism and decolonisation, and other anti-establishment politics in SF
  • Utopia, dystopia, ustopia
  • Politics of the margins in SF – queerness, disability, race and ethnicity, nationality, religious minorities and caste, immigrants and refugees
  • Reproductive justice in SF
  • Depictions of class, class warfare and social reproduction
  • Climate justice in SF
  • Futurisms from specific race and ethnic perspectives – Afrofuturism, Indigenous futurisms, Asian and South Asian futurisms
  • Reform, rebellion and revolution in SF
  • Cyberpunk, steampunk, dieselpunk, silkpunk, Afropunk, solarpunk, acid communism as forms of dissent
  • Specific SF response to contemporary activist movements – Trans Justice, Me Too, Black Lives Matter, Refugees Welcome, and others
  • Critiques of established/Western SF
  • Challenges to the canon
  • Limits of accessibility in SF
  • Limits and critiques of genre writing
  • Lack of diversity versus tokenism in SF
  • Value of #OwnVoices
  • Toxic fandom and gatekeeping

Suggested Reading:

Texts on collective action, community change, and strategies of care: Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds; Temporary Autonomous Zone; Deciding for Ourselves: The Promise of Direct Democracy; Overcoming Burnout; Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine and the Foundations of a Movement; Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement; Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity in This Crisis (and the next; Glitch Feminism; The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Self-Love; Traditions, Tyranny, and Utopia: Essays on the Politics of Awareness

Texts on class revolution and socio-economic reform: The Society of the Spectacle; Traditions, Tyranny, and Utopia: Essays on the Politics of Awareness; The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class; Post-capitalist Desire; Social Class in the 21st Century

Texts on intersectional feminisms: Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice; Living a Feminist Life; Utopian Bodies and the Politics of Transgression; BodyMinds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction; How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective; Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements; Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot; Glitch Feminism; Feminism in Play

Texts on queer rights and justice: Cruising Utopia: the Then and There of Queer Futurity; Transgender History: Roots of Todays Revolution; Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements; Queer Phenomenologies; Queer Universes: Sexualities in Science Fiction; I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl’s Notes from the End of the World

Texts on critical race theory, racial justice and decolonisation: The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study; The Wretched of the Earth; Black Utopias: Speculative Life and the Music of Other Worlds; The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics; There Ain’t no Black in the Union Jack; Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice; Decolonizing Science Fiction and Imagining Futures: An Indiginous Futurisms roundtable (Strange Horizons); Liberating Sápmi: Indigenous Resistance in Europe’s Far North; From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawai’i; Intersectional Tech: Black Users in Digital Gaming; Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code; Captivating Technology: Race, Carceral Technoscience, and Liberatory Imagination in Everyday Life; Distributed Blackness: African American Cybercultures; As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock

Texts on bodily autonomy, reproductive justice and sex work: Pleasure Activism; Revolting Prostitutes; Know My Name; Dis/Consent: Perspectives on Sexual Consent and Violence; Post-capitalist Desire; The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Self-Love

Texts on disability justice and care work: Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice; BodyMinds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction; Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the 21st Century

Texts on digital activism and technological futures: Perfecting Human Futures: Transhuman Visions and Technological Imaginations; The Freudian Robot: Digital Media ad the Future of the Unconscious; Playing Nature: Ecology in Video Games; Intersectional Tech: Black Users in Digital Gaming; Woke Gaming: Digital Challenges to Oppression and Social Justice; Feminism in Play; Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need; Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code; Captivating Technology: Race, Carceral Technoscience, and Liberatory Imagination in Everyday Life; Distributed Blackness: African American Cybercultures

Texts on eco-sustainability and environmental justice: Playing Nature: Ecology in Video Games; Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene; Engage, Connect, Protect: Empowering Diverse Youth as Environmental Leaders; Environmental Justice in a Moment of Danger; As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock

Acceptance speeches and calls to action:

Jeannette Ng’s 2019 speech for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer (written speech and recorded speech), Elsa Sjunneson’s 2019 Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine acceptance speech (written speech), N.K Jemisin’s 2018 Hugo award for Best Novel acceptance speech (written speech and recorded speech)

A FIYAHCON Retrospective 

To Build a Future Without Police and Prisons, We Have to Imagine It First //OR// Rewriting the Future

Using Science Fiction to Re-Envision Justice

(posted 28 May 2021)

 

 

 

 

 

 


Dreams and the Animal Kingdom in Culture and Aesthetic Media
Saarland University, Saarbrücken, Germany, 23-25 September 2021
Deadline for proposals: 15 January 2021

International and Interdisciplinary Conference held by the Research Centre “European Dream-Cultures”, funded by the German Research Foundation: DFG-Graduiertenkolleg 2021 “Europäische Traumkulturen”

Animal dreams — dreams of animals, by animals, or inspired by animals — have concerned poets, mythographers, fabulists, dramatists, painters, musicians, choreographers, filmmakers, and writers of short fictions. Animal dreams have, in fact, become embodiments of the traversal of genres by thinkers, scientists, and writers whose fictions have been inspired by the possibilities of myth, fable, allegory, hybridity, monstrosity, and symbolic hallucination. Animal dreams span all the arts, and they also extend into the worlds of philosophy and even the borders of scientific metaphor. Dreams and dream-images of animals transcend cultures and are frequently taken as avatars, portentous spirits, or disguised divinities. Despite the prevalence of animal dreams across a panoply of genres, media, and cultures, the topic has so far been neglected even by those who have pioneered the emerging fields of animal studies and dream studies.

In accordance with the concept of Saarland University’s research centre ‘European Dream-Cultures’, which investigates the literary, aesthetic, media and cultural histories of the dream, this international conference will pursue the subject of ‘Dreams and the Animal Kingdom’ across different genres, cultural epochs, and aesthetic media. We invite proposals for papers (20 minutes plus time for questions and discussion), pre-constituted panels (three papers of 20 minutes each plus time for discussion), or workshops/roundtables (concentrating on more practical aspects such as research methods, creative practice, teaching) from researchers in the disciplines of art, theatre, film, media, music and literary studies, as well as history, philosophy and other related fields. Contributions should investigate cultural or aesthetic representations of dreams of/by mammals, aquatic fauna, insects, birds, serpents, hybrid mythological creatures, as well as fabulous, fantastical, or cryptozoological animals or other denizens of the animal kingdom, broadly conceived. In accordance with our desire to create a growing and collegiate network of dream-researchers, our aim will be to avoid parallel sessions at the conference, so that participants can hear all papers and take part in all discussions of their choosing.

Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

  • An author’s particular dreams about one or more animals
  • A single image involving a species interpreted variously in different cultural settings
  • Thematic approaches to dreams about various fauna
  • Representations of dreaming animals
  • The presence of animals in dream interpretation manuals
  • Media and multimedia sensitivity in artistic visions of animal dreams or dreaming animals
  • Dreams involving fabulous or mythic creatures
  • Historical or Art Historical consequences related to dreams about animals

Please submit your proposal as a Word file to traumkulturen@uni-saarland.de no later than 15 January 2021. Please describe your project – in English, German, or French – in an abstract not exceeding 200 words and include a short, topic-appropriate CV. For proposals for panels, workshops, or roundtables, please include such a CV for each panellist/participant.

Since this international conference is aimed at researchers from different countries and cultures, the official conference language will be English, but papers may be presented in English, German, or French.

We anticipate the inclusion of cultural events in our programme, and plan to organise a sightseeing trip to nearby places of interest. Please note the Dream-Cultures website (http://www.traumkulturen.de/veranstaltungen/konferenzenco.html) for up-to-date details such as keynote presentations.

Following the conference, we will publish selected contributions in an edited volume.

(posted 18 July 2020)


“With mirth and laughter let wrinkles come”: New perspectives and approaches to humour in medieval and medieval-inspired literature (Part I)
Koszalin University of Technology, an Iinternational Online Conference,  27-28 September 2021
Deadline for proposals: 25 August 2021

You are cordially invited to the eighth Medieval Fantasy Symposium, organised by the Faculty of Humanities at the Koszalin University of Technology, which will be held online on 27 and 28 September 2021. Medieval Fantasy Symposia aim at bringing together specialists in the areas of medieval and fantasy literature, in particular those who seek to find cultural connections between the numerous supernatural elements in the literary output of the Middle Ages (e.g. Beowulf, Norse and Celtic mythologies, the Arthurian cycle) and modern tales in the fantasy genre which are set in different quasi-medieval worlds (e.g. The Lord of the Rings or A Song of Ice and Fire). The scope  of the symposia is not, however, strictly limited to the world of literature, as it also embraces the many fields of artistic expression including the fine and cinematic arts. In conjunction with the conference, the Second Inklings Seminar will be organised, an annual event of the newly-founded Polish Inklings Society INKLIGATAL.

It is proverbial – and not for that reason any less true – that laughter is the best medicine, one which has practically no side-effects, complications and intolerance reactions (barring, of course, those that could be expected from the people with no sense of humour or a healthy distance to themselves). It may not stop the actual process of ageing, but it can certainly affect the quality of life, make it more meaningful and fulfilling, particularly when the feeling of mirth comes with the hope which transcends the boundaries of our earthly existence. Should then the wrinkles ultimately come – and come they will, regardless of one’s age, livelihood and inner spirit – let them come “with mirth and laughter” (to use the words of Shakespeare’s Gratiano in The Merchant of Venice), the sine qua non, as it seems, of a good and upright life.

Since all of our regular participants (as well as those who, we hope, will join our merry company this year) “value food and cheer and song above hoarded gold” (this time quoting Tolkien’s Thorin in The Hobbit), it has been decided that the eighth Medieval Fantasy Symposium will be dedicated to the various aspects and manifestations of literary (as well as extratextual) humour. It is, therefore, expected to cover all sorts of texts of undisputedly medieval, or even pre-medieval, origin (myths, poems, sagas, legend, chronicles etc.) and post-medieval fantasy (in particular, the works of Tolkien and Lewis) in which humour plays a central or at least significant role. The main thematic areas will include the following:

  • The presence, form and purpose of humour in literature, from late Antiquity through to the Middle Ages and beyond.
  • The humorous and absurd world of medieval marginalia, scribal doodles and extratextual comments from the
  • The use of comedy, satire and irony to highlight the social, political as well as ethical issues and attitudes in the Middle
  • The bawdy puns and the more subtle sexual allusions in late medieval texts (Chrétien de Troyes, Chaucer, the Gawain-Poet et al.).
  • The philological jests, puns, wordplays and private jokes in the literary and non-literary works of R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
  • The sources, strategies and manifestations of humour in the works of modern fantasy writers (Pratchett, Sapkowski et ).

Individual papers on any topic within the above-mentioned (or closely-related) areas should take 20 minutes, followed by a 10-minute discussion. Participants are invited to submit their proposals (medieval.fantasy.symposium@gmail.com) in the form of 200-word abstracts by 25 August 2021. Notices of acceptance will be sent by the end of August. Selected texts relating to the works of Tolkien, Lewis and the other Inklings will be published in the second issue of the academic journal Subcreatio. The other papers could be collected into a separate volume (medieval literature) or come out in the academic journal Symbolae Europaeae (fantasy).

For the first time (and, we hope, the last), the conference will be held online (and so there will be no fee). If the pandemic restrictions are less severe for academic activities next year, we would like to continue with the same thematic area (hence ‘PART I’ in the title), this time under more cheerful circumstances by the Baltic Sea.

Koszalin University of Technology Faculty of Humanities, ul. Eugeniusza Kwiatkowskiego 6E 75-343 Koszalin, Poland

Conference Coordinators: dr Paul McNamara, dr Łukasz Neubauer

(posted 18 May 2021)