Annual Conference

10556945_10152757379830552_3105507968243826682_oCFP: Sites of Decay

The Eighth Annual Graduate Conference

Literature, Politics and Aesthetics

The Department of Comparative Literature

Binghamton University (SUNY), March 13-14, 2015

Keynote: Ann Stoler, Professor of Anthropology and Historical Studies (The New School for Social Research)

Faculty Keynote: Julia Walker, Art History Department (Binghamton University)

Decay calls upon a variety of meanings. It can be defined as decomposition over time, or as site of decomposed material; as the processional decrease in material magnitude; or as a displacement of organic power. Decay places and takes place. Decay may be erosion, both from outside and from within. Decay negotiates, monumentalizes, ossifies and ruins. The eroded sites invoke ludic aspects of decay’s simultaneous presence and absence. Its discourse draws attention to spatio-temporal flux, and further renders discontinuities, creases and folds at decay’s various sites. The discourse of decay centers in ideal conceptions of corporeal, aesthetic, political, and cultural sites. Decay can be manifest in death, disease, contamination, transgression. Ruins, monuments, bodies, borders, texts all serve as its locales.

The topic of decay has been taken up in various artistic and literary productions (whether in recent exhibitions of modern art, in avant-garde movements, or in literature of fin de siècle), as well as in theoretical readings that have implications for various disciplinary practices.

We invite talks/papers as well as artistic productions that deal with but are not limited to the following topics:

Politics of decay: Is decay a process occurring over time or an instantaneous Event? How do we define decay? To what extent does decay reveal something of the subject-object relationship? In what ways might notions of decay destabilize existent frameworks of representation? How might one locate the various sites of decay?

Corporeality and decay: How does decay enter and change the notion and the borders of the body? What are some sites of transgression? How does this border crossing happen: through disease, contamination and death? What happens after death? Is it possible to contain or stop this process?

Memory/ forgetting and decay: How or does the decay of memory result in the loss of identity? What about dementia? Is decay becoming? What about schizophrenia, or a degradation of the dialectic of the totality and dialectic of becoming? What is the connection to the sites of memory and monumentalization? What about the “recycling” of monuments? How are sites of decay related to the feelings of nostalgia?

Environment and decay: What is the “nature” of decay? How does decay help define the forms of life? How do we conceptualize waste and wastefulness versus consumption? How does decay affect our lived and built environment? How do we think of decay as working against the grain of history?

Aesthetics and Decay: What is our reaction (repulsion or attraction) to decay as an aesthetic? Is aesthetics “contagious”? What do we make of the notion of “decay of aesthetics” in avant-garde? What about the notions of “art for art’s sake” or the so-called “degenerate art”? Is there a decay of aesthetics in post-war places? Is there an element of decay in the passing of fashion and trends?

Literature and decay: How does decay destabilize theories of representation? What about erosion of the corpus/body of works/canon? How does decay counter master narratives, including, among others, the narrative of decay of “civilization”? How do we read decadence in literature (Silver Age vs. Golden Age in Roman literature) or literature of fin de siècle, to give a few examples?

Translation and Decay: What is the relationship of translation to language? Is decay mediation? Is translator an agent of contamination? Is translation a site of contamination? How and why does a translation decay over time? Is it necessary for translations to decay in order for the original to continue?

Please send an abstract of at least 250 words detailing your proposal for a twenty-minute presentation or artistic submissions along with your C.V. to by January 23rd, 2015.


About the Annual Graduate Conference

Each spring, the Comparative Literature M.A. and Ph.D. students organize a graduate conference that stands out for its distinctive keynote speakers and international contributors. Typically addressing topics related to interdisciplinarity, the conference continues to attract broad attention from students and scholars throughout the humanities, arts, and social sciences. In recent years, the conferences have been organized around an overarching theme “Literature, Politics, Aesthetics.”

Past Conferences


Literature, Politics, Aesthetics: Jacques Rancière and the Politics of A-Disciplinarily, March 28-29, 2014

Interdisciplinarity has become a buzzword across the humanities; the term usually implies that scholars make use of the tools of another discipline while remaining within the boundaries of their own. The French philosopher Jacques Rancière points to the impossibility of this project, describing his work as “a-disciplinary” or “in-disciplinary.” We propose a conference about Rancière for three reasons: firstly, he takes up questions and concepts that belong to multiple disciplines; secondly, his ideas have been adopted within different disciplines; and lastly, Rancière himself theorized the nature of disciplines and disciplinary boundaries.


Literature, Politics, and Aesthetics: The Production of Knowledge and the Future of the University, March 8-9, 2013

Neoliberal policies have restructured the university, disciplinary knowledge, and the disciplines themselves. With the formation of the ‘for-profit’ university, profit-bearing disciplines are valorized, student loans increase drastically, and humanities departments are pressured to redefine themselves in the face of intrusive economic demands. But where does this leave the humanities? What is the status of knowledge production given economic deregulation and privatization shaping the present and future of the university?


Forms of Life: Literature, Politics, Aesthetics, March 2-3, 2012

What comprises the matrix within which a given language has meaning? How is meaning constructed and how is it operative across social, cultural, and linguistic impasses? How is conflict and antagonism orchestrated both across and within disparate forms of life? To interrogate the emergence of sense as well as the conflicts that arise as a result of making sense, we welcome submissions that theorize the concerns outlined above with a particular eye toward their theorization as forms of life. In this way, we seek submissions that span disciplinary boundaries and topics, broadly speaking, related to literature, linguistics, politics, alternative and utopian imaginaries, aesthetics, and tactics of resistance.


Sexuality Across the Disciplines, April 30, 2010

This interdisciplinary graduate conference seeks to consider the intersections between literature and other humanities and social sciences fields, including anthropology, sociology, philosophy, art history, history, and how these fields interpret, understand, and/or engage issues of sexuality. The conference will be held in LT 1506 from 8:30 am to 2:00 pm. It will be followed by a roundtable discussion. Free and open to the public.


Inhabiting the Transnational, February 20, 2009

The Department of Comparative Literature presents a conference on “Inhabiting the Transnational,” Friday, February 20, in LT 1506 (9:00-12:30 p.m.) and in LT 1406A (1:30-4:30 p.m.). For questions and program information please contact Gisela Brinker-Gabler ( or Annemarie Fischer ( Free and open to the public.


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