NOV. 19-20, 2015

Keynote Speaker:

Susan Phillips, Northwestern University
Associate Professor of English and Alumnae of Northwestern Teaching Professor

Faculty Roundtable:

  • Natasha Barnes, University of Illinois at Chicago
    Associate Professor of African American Studies and English
  • Peter Coviello, University of Illinois at Chicago
    Professor of English
  • Patrick Jagoda, University of Chicago
    Assistant Professor of English
  • Lynn Spigel, Northwestern University
    Frances Willard Professor of Screen Cultures


From Chaucer’s House of Fame to Gossip Girl, the distortive power of rumor and gossip has long generated both fascination and anxiety across media, genres, and periods. In the digital age, unofficial discourse has acquired the potential for frenzied transmission, often substantiating established fears surrounding the nebulous nature of the intermediary. The fascination and paranoia attached to the spread and (mis)handling of information speaks to a deeply-rooted unease around origins, third-parties, and modes of exchange. To label gossip as solely nefarious, however, ignores its positive manifestations as participatory, subversive, and empowering, as well as its potential role in anti-hegemonic discourse or storytelling.

The University of Chicago Department of English Language and Literature seeks proposals for its 2015 Graduate Conference, “Words Unofficial: Gossip, Circulation, Mediation.” This conference will explore how various forms and modes, both literary and otherwise, have treated information misplaced and in motion. We are interested in fostering a cross-disciplinary and cross-temporal conversation, reflecting on various interpretations of unrecognized or cryptic modes of communication.

We invite papers including but not limited to the following:

  • Chatter, babble, and nonsense
  • Oral tradition
  • Authorship, authority, and ownership
  • Editorial intervention and print culture
  • Misprints, typos, and misinterpretations
  • Translation and intertextuality
  • Spaces/structures of transmission
  • Social media and global consciousness
  • Tabloids, scandal, and celebrity culture
  • Privacy and publicity
  • Libel and slander
  • Surveillance and ethics
  • Social network theory

Deadline for submissions has passed.