Call for Papers
On the Possibility of Worlds
An Interdisciplinary Conference at Princeton University, March 6-7, 2009
The goal of this conference is to bring together graduate students and faculty across the humanities and social sciences to discuss a topic being studied in a variety of disciplines: the creation of worlds—real or imaginary, human or divine, possible or impossible. By considering the genesis of the worlds we live in and the worlds we create, we hope to initiate a conversation about the borders of these worlds, the spaces in which different approaches meet and interact. Possible worlds theory has become influential in various areas of contemporary philosophy, including metaphysics and philosophy of language, and has interesting applications in the field of literary studies. What is ontological status of fictional worlds created by literary texts, and what is the relationship between these imaginary worlds and the actual one? The idea of possible worlds, furthermore, provides a framework for thinking about topics ranging from the discourse of colonization, utopianism, the changes wrought by technological and scientific advancements, and the consequences of immigration and globalization. Modal questions about contingency are raised in debates about counterfactual history, while in the study of religion, origin myths, theodicies, and questions of predestination all rely on a concept of world creation.
The conference will include panels on the topic in literature, philosophy, religion, and history. Each panel will have a respondent drawn from the Princeton faculty: Professor D. Vance Smith in literature; Professor Gideon Rosen in philosophy; and Gordon Graham, Henry Luce III Professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, in religion. Thomas Pavel, Gordon J. Laing Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, will deliver a keynote address.
Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
The ontology of fiction
Prophecies and predictions in literature
Modal questions in narrative theory (e.g. contingency in plot)
Narrative universes (e.g. Balzac, Marvel Comics)
Potentiality (e.g. Aristotle, Agamben)
Essence and existence (e.g. Avicenna, Leibniz)
The Age of Discovery
Cosmologies (e.g. Lem, Bruno, Milton)
Please submit abstracts of no more than 500 words to email@example.com by December 15th. Abstracts should be formatted for blind review, with a cover page listing the author’s name, the paper title, institutional affiliation, and a brief biography. All participants will be notified on or before January 15th.
Questions may be addressed to Dora Zhang, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Organizing Committee: Andrew Huddleston (Philosophy), Suzanne Podhurst (History), Julianne Werlin (English), Dora Zhang (Comparative Literature)
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