Agency in/and/via Literature
A Conference hosted by the Department of Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley
October 21-22, 2005
Keynote Speaker: Rei Terada
Endnote Speaker: William Vollmann
For the full call for papers, visit http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~agency
The crisis, we think, has long since been declared. Critical theory, deconstruction, and the manifold critique of ideology, meant the lucid undoing of any complacent faith in human reason, progress, language, or consequence.
In the wake of theories that question the very possibility of right action, “agency” has become both a catchword and an idea we can no longer take for granted. Although “agency” seems a contemporary term, the idea’s antecedents share an expectation that human works and actions somehow engage social realities.
We are seeking to understand the limits and possibilities of “agency” as manifest in literature and criticism.
We are calling for papers from graduate students, faculty, and unaffiliated scholars addressing, among others, these questions:
• Where do we locate agency in the interaction of reader, writer, text, and critic in literature?
• Why use agency as a point of literary inquiry? What are the consequences of not doing so? Might the discussion of agency in academia promote--or perhaps mask--ethical projects?
• Does simply posing the question of “agency” presuppose a necessary interaction between literary and social/political questions? Can, do, or should we assume the existence of agency and its relevance to the study of literature?
• What are our contemporary notions of agency and their alleged contraries? How do they link to questions posed in other periods?
• If literature is deemed an aesthetic project, how does this status inflect our concept? Is aesthetics subordinate to the question of agency, or indispensable to it? How is agency treated differently in other disciplines?
In the spirit of dialogic liveliness, we plan to make some modifications to the traditional conference format. Fun may occur. Snacks are a certainty. We look forward to meeting you and your work.
Please send an abstract of about 500 words by August 4, 2005 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit our website!: http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~agency
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