Call for Papers

Captive Senses and Aesthetic Habits: A joint graduate conference between English Language & Literature and Art History

Fourth Annual Graduate Conference – October 8-9, 2009
The University of Chicago

But what sort of sense is constitutive of the everydayness? Surely this sense includes not sense so much as sensuousness, . . . a knowledge that lies as much in the objects and spaces of observation as in the body and mind of the observer.

– Michael Taussig, “Tactility and Distraction”

For decades, sensory experience has been a vital area of research in the humanities, yet much of the resulting discourse assumes that the senses operate independently both of each other and of the world. This conference
seeks to explore how we might better understand sensation as an immersive bodily experience, one which can arise from both the banal and the exceptional.

The conference theme, “Captive Senses and Aesthetic Habits,” seeks to raise questions about the role sensation plays in the visual arts, in literary works, and in day-to-day life. How can we be captivated by the ostensibly typical and everyday? How can we re-conceptualize perception to allow us to move beyond our habituated ways of viewing and thinking about the world? How can we speak of our experience while simultaneously acknowledging our immersion in it?

Our senses are shaped by intentional training and unintentional habituation. As a result, they can direct us to certain codes or conventions, allowing us to note important features of a given artwork and our physical environment; however, assumptions and expectations can also dictate the limits of our experiences.

The scholarship of keynote speaker Michael Taussig offers a fascinating, wide-ranging exploration of these issues. Face painting and camouflage, Marcel Proust and William Burroughs, the photographs of William Eggleston and the films of Georges Méliès, gold and cocaine, all become the subjects of Taussig’s penetrating analyses.

The Art History and English Departments at the University of Chicago are pleased to co-sponsor a conference welcoming transdisciplinary inquiries into issues of aesthetic experience and habitual knowledge.

Please submit abstracts of 250-350 words as Microsoft Word email attachments to ucgradconf@gmail.com by June 1, 2009.

Papers from all disciplines will be considered. Possible topics include:

Reception:
• The phenomenology of aesthetic experience
• Absorption, distraction, and immersion
• Spectacle and spectatorship

Construction:
• Active and passive perception / questions of agency
• Optical devices, prosthetics, and virtual reality
• Societies of sentiment

Captivation:
• The limits of language
• Compulsion and addiction
• The secular and the sacred

Habituation:
• Mimesis and representation
• Ritual
• Mass media; popular culture; mechanical reproduction