CALL FOR PAPERS Untold Futures: Speculation, Redemption, Disappointment University of Chicago English Graduate Conference

Tue. Jul. 26, 2016


Untold Futures: Speculation, Redemption, Disappointment

University of Chicago English Graduate Conference

November 17-18, 2016


Keynote Speaker: Kate Marshall, Associate Professor of English, University of Notre Dame


Roundtable: Adrienne Brown, University of Chicago; Penelope Deutscher, Northwestern University; Joseph Masco, University of Chicago; Vivasvan Soni, Northwestern University


How do we negotiate, interpret, mediate, figure, tell, survive, or otherwise live after the coming of the future? Taking this as our question, we seek to generate an interdisciplinary discussion of the future as an object that induces affective attachments, political contestations, and various problematics of literary and aesthetic form. We foresee interest on the part of scholars from a diverse range of theoretical orientations, including but not limited to the Anthropocene, posthumanism, queer theory, postcolonialism, new globalisms, media studies, and trauma theory. In addition, by posing the question of the future as one of literary and aesthetic mediation, we invite attention to a broad range of genres and forms, including science fiction, divinatory, prophetic, and millenarian writings, dystopian/utopian novels, as well as canonical texts from the medieval to the postmodern. Finally, we welcome submissions and speculations concerning critical, theoretical, and disciplinary futures, as well as future literacies and their attendant media.


The future has always been a problem; yet it is also a problem unique to each historical moment, and becomes perhaps more urgent now that the very conditions for having a future have been imperiled. Indeed, posing the question of the future tells us most about the moment in which it is imagined. Could the unearthing of futures past restore to us the potential their passing foreclosed? Or might the very idea of the future and the contests it entails be what endangers us? Could its loss therefore allow us to imagine new modes of living in the present? Thinking through these problems in anticipation of a future in common, we foresee our theme provoking a vibrant cross-disciplinary conversation that will be of shared relevance to the interests of many.


In addition to the above, some other possible prompts for variations on our theme include:


  • Cinematic, photographic, musical, and other visual, audio, or even tactile futures
  • Rhetorical futures: how to talk about, lie about, and perhaps even tell the future
  • Unequal futures and their racial, economic, and/or topographical distributions
  • Death and dying, whether personal, animal, or planetary; eschatology and afterlives
  • Time and temporalities: normative, queer, messianic, secular, transitional, etc.
  • Affective orientations toward the future: optimistic, pessimistic, anhedonic, etc.
  • Apocalypse and catastrophe
  • Looking back: questions of origin and return, Golden Ages and original sin, transmission and revision, nostalgia
  • Anti-futurity: to opt out, become insolvent, cease to care

This list, of course, is incomplete. We are very much open to the unforeseen and welcome scholars from a variety of disciplines. Please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words to by July 29, 2016.