Theme: The Immaterial
Conference Organizers: ROC English and American Literature Association (EALA, Taiwan) and National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan
Date: October 30, 2021
Venue: National Taiwan Normal University (Main Campus), Taipei, Taiwan
Call for Papers (By January 15, 2021)
From Socrates’ daemon to the polar spirit that pursues Coleridge’s ancient mariner to the transferrable consciousness uploaded into “cortical stacks” on the recent cyberpunk series Altered Carbon, conceptions and representations of the immaterial abound in philosophy, literature, television, and almost every other discourse and medium. In theology, angels. In mathematics, p. “In” my body, all the ideas, sensations, and qualia that I experience. Exactly what these immaterial states and entities are and how they relate to and interact with material ones has been the subject of much debate and depiction in countless texts over millennia.
Nor does contemporary theory, which informs so much of our literary analysis, dismiss the immaterial as immaterial, despite its ample focus on bodies and materiality. There is the movement known as speculative realism, which speculates on, among other things, the interior reality of nonhuman entities, asking various permutations of Thomas Nagel’s famous question, “What is it like to be a bat?” There is the movement known as new materialism, which argues that there is no definitive break between material and spiritual phenomena. These relatively recent movements were preceded, and in some cases are informed, by the many analyses of ideologies, affects, and the virtual associated with the work of Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, and other important theorists of the twentieth century. Running even further back, psychoanalysis and the idealist tradition in philosophy can likewise be seen as developing sophisticated explanations for psychic phenomena that continue to shape our present perspectives.
If all of these approaches have a unifying theme, perhaps it is that of connection. How do the immaterial and material communicate? How are individual selves split from, or connected to, each other and larger collectives? Is the soul, as Foucault puts it, the prison of the body—and if so, how do we escape? Is the body, as Lisa Blackman puts it, immaterial—and if so, where does my body end? How is my consciousness and the consciousness of, say, a bat integrated into an ecology, a Gaia, or a world soul? How do ideologies and affects give rise to a collective mood that maintains or alters the political landscape? How does the materiality of literature, the leaves, the (digital) ink—but also its intangible forms and genres, senses and meanings—form and deform our psychology and interactions with others? The immaterial is an interface upon which infinite ideas can be cast, and we ask that you cast them in our direction. Possible paper topics on the immaterial in English and American literature include, but are not limited to, the following:
the idealist philosophical tradition, or more specifically the relationship between particular idealist movements (e.g., Neoplatonism, German Idealism) and literature
recent theoretical conceptions of the immaterial, such as Graham Harman’s Immaterialism or Elizabeth Grosz’s The Incorporeal, or broader movements like speculative realism and new materialism
psychoanalysis: dreams, obsession and paranoia, traumas, drive, jouissance, etc.
cognitive psychology and neuroscience
religion, mysticism, and panpsychism (including the topics of ghosts, angels and spirits, demons, spiritualism, and spirituality)
theorization of the immaterial from minority knowledge, such as theories and analyses emerging from indigenous studies, disability studies, queer studies, feminist studies, critical race studies, decolonial studies, etc.
the material-immaterial dialectic in science fiction: cyborgs, aliens, robots, AI, VR, augmented realities, or other alternated entities)
species in horror and fantasy
super powers (such as precognition and telepathy), paranormality and spiritual practices (including meditation, yoga, prayer, and so on)
magic, alchemy, occult and pseudoscience
other topics including time and/or space, logic, mathematics, and higher dimensions, affect, emotion, and mood
We encourage individuals, as well as pre-formed panels, to submit abstracts of 300-500 words, with a title and 5 keywords, including short CVs (name, title, affiliations, selected publications, contacts) to the committee at firstname.lastname@example.org by January 15, 2021. Electronic acknowledgements of submission will be sent to all submitters upon receipt of the abstract. Notifications of acceptance will be sent by March 15, 2021. Full papers should be submitted by October 15, 2021.
Abstract submission deadline: January 15, 2021.
Abstract acceptance notification: March 15, 2021.
Full paper submission deadline: October 15, 2021.
Conference date: October 30, 2021.