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May 11, 2015

CFP: BABEL Toronto (9-11 Oct 2015)

4th Biennial Meeting of the BABEL Working Group

~ Off the Books: Making, Breaking, Binding, Burning, Leaving, Gathering  ~


9-11 October 2015

University of Toronto, Canada

Call for Papers / Presentations / Provocations / Performances / Palavers

For those interested in submitting an individual proposal or statement of interest for any of the sessions below (which are divided into: A. Ir/regular Sessions and B. Un/sessions), please send your query and/or short proposal (of no more than 300-500 words) directly to that session’s organizer(s) at the email addresses designated below NO LATER THAN JUNE 15, 2015. Some sessions may be full already, and are designated as such by being highlighted in ORANGE, in which case, please send the organizer a query first. We will not be able to consider random, individual proposals; all proposals must be designed to meet the theme(s) and frameworks set by session organizers. If you have any questions or concerns, contact Eileen Joy and Liza Blake here:

Description of conference’s overall themes HERE.


*all images from Sean Kernan, Secret Books

Featured Speakers

Micha Cárdenas //

trans of color movement ∗ digital media ∗ performance ∗ poetry ∗ aesthetics ∗ bioart ∗ information sciences

Malisha Dewalt //

provocation ∗ people of color in european art history ∗ cognitive dissonance ∗ race ∗ historiography

David Gersten //

architecture/design ∗ para-education ∗ theater/film ∗ disciplinary choras ∗ poetic materialisms ∗ creative exchange

Alexandra Gillespie //

medieval manuscripts ∗ bindings ∗ bibliography ∗ book history ∗ print culture ∗ textuality ∗ bibliophilia

Randall McLeod (aka Random Cloud) //

portable collation ∗ early modern book history ∗ intellectual history ∗ typography ∗ unediting ∗ obliterature

Whitney Anne Trettien //

comparative media studies ∗ media archaeology ∗ early book history ∗ starry reading materialities ∗ concordances ∗ digital sound studies


A. Ir/regular Sessions

Amateur Hour: Professionals, Geeks, Enthusiasts and the Role of Play in our Work[*may be full; send query]

Co-Organizers: Nathan Kelber (University of Maryland) + Craig Dionne (Eastern Michigan University)

Queries to:

What is the difference between academic and amateur modes of scholarship? Between the legitimate “researcher” and the “enthusiast?”  How do we distinguish professional practices from so-called amateur geeky pursuits?  In keeping with BABEL’s tradition of encouraging alternative modes of intellectual engagement and performance, this panel will explore how legitimate “academic research” borrows its sense of rigor and zeal from unorthodox but no less intellectual modes of scholarly/scientific inquiry.  We invite scholars and teachers whose work is informed by their own “off the book” passions/interests/pastimes: We are interested in blurring the lines between orthodox and unorthodox modes, reconsidering the boundaries of play and work:  historian as collector/hoarder, actor as scholar, research play (or researcher as player), pet owning as alternative posthuman/animal knowing. Questions include: what is the difference between work and play or labor and pleasure?  How is the hobby as “side-interest” challenged /defined /expressed in the creative work of one’s primary research?  Is one defined or animated by the other? We are looking for presenters from different disciplinary backgrounds (especially from the sciences). Our format invites presentations that are experimental and hands-on.

Apocalyptic Assemblages: Reading to the End in Religion, Ecology, and Popular Culture

Co-Organizers: Justin Kolb (American University in Cairo) + Maija Birenbaum (University of Wisconsin-Whitewater)

Proposals to:

We’re in the last days, man  I truly in my heart believe that. It’s written. I could go on with Biblical situations and things my grandma told me. But it’s about being at peace with myself and making good with the people around me.

~Kendrick Lamar, interview with Billboard, 8 January 2015

There’s an allure to life in the last days. The largest earthquake in British history was recorded on 6 April 1580. The following 9 October, a comet streaked across the sky. These novae sparked a rash of pamphlets, including Francis Shakelton’s A blazyng Starre, which read the earthquake and comet as omens of “the finall dissolution of the Engine of this worlde […] whiche by many manifest and inevitable reasons I gather, can not bee farre of”:

[I]t shall manifestly be proved that this worlde shall perishe and passe awaie, if wee doe but consider the partes whereof it doeth consist, for doe we not see the earth to be changed and corrupted […] have ye not read, that seas have rebounded back, overwhelmed whole Cittes, and utterly drowned whole provinces: And what are these strange alterations els, but evident arguments that the world shall one daie have an ende.

Shakelton’s theory of the Decay of Nature was, like most apocalypses, a complex assemblage combining the Book of God and the Book of Nature, with creation constantly warning us of its entropic slide. How do holy books, secular texts, and signs in the earth and sky combine to write ends for the world? How do apocalyptic discourses use books to order an uncertain world? How do they turn nature into a book? How is apocalypticism a form of knowledge production that combines human and inhuman actors? How have apocalyptic ideologies shaped political rhetoric and historical perspectives, from Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana to Ronald Reagan’s “Evil Empire?” How have eschatological visions affected book production, from medieval English apocalypse manuscripts to Puritan poetry to preppers’ guide-books?  Why are texts, be they holy books, pamphlet prophecies, or lines of code, so essential to apocalypses? What are the risks and rewards of reading to the end? This panel seeks short (10 minutes, max) papers or presentations that explore this human fascination with the end of time. Presentations other than traditional academic papers encouraged.

“as now are you so once were we”: Death’s Crown and the Transformative Jewellery of Resurrective Texts

Co-Organizers: R.B.Griffiths (Anglian College, UK) + Kristin Noone, (University of California, Riverside & Irvine College)

Proposals to:

We have been pondering the dead. More specifically, we have been considering books as objects of the monumental and the intimation of resurrection. Locations of the desire to memorialize or recapture or preserve in text — by which books or “books” (and books may take multifaceted and glittering or grotesque forms) naturally, in physical form, embody a desire to bring someone/thing/time back from the dead. We are interested in contributions that explore the productive tension between the materially-produced and temporally-located object of a “book” and the question of that book’s afterlives: for example, zombie texts, fanworks and textual poaching, anxiety and adornment and fetishization, transformative rewritings of a narrative into other genres and/or media. The BABEL 2015 meeting takes “off the books” as a starting-place; in this session, we hope to explore questions of the past and future of the book, not only in today’s increasingly digital and instant-participatory age, but at previous historical moments: how have books “died” before? How have they returned to life? How might they embody, celebrate, and fantasize the idea of an afterlife?

We are interested in a mingling of traditional and nontraditional responses from academics, scholar-fans and fan-scholars, and para-academics: participants may choose to frame their contributions in terms of poetry, performance, academic ruminations upon one (or more) of our suggested concepts or around any related texts that come to mind, authoring and/or reading a short story or flash fiction, art or found-object presentation, music, or a pro forma analysis of any pre-existing forms of the above; in other words, a multimedia and cross-genre symposium. Responses should be roughly five to seven minutes in length; we encourage proposals from a diversity of disciplines and backgrounds.

Suggested concepts or jumping-off points:

  • texts that challenge traditional definitions of a “book” (e.g. engravings, inscriptions, gravestones, body art, etc)
  • experiential relations to the past and personal experiences with books/”books”/bibliophilia
  • materiality, moments of temporal production, Object-Oriented Analysis
  • zombie texts and resurrections
  • jewelled skeletons, little deaths, and the memento mori
  • amateurism, love, anxiety, and performance (including but not limited to RPGs and role-play)
  • manuals of necromancy and/or sorcery
  • artificiality, adornment, and fantasy
  • fandom and fanworks, participatory culture, and the ethics of textual poaching
  • noncontemporaneous contemporaneity, heterotemporalities, and the event horizon

Bending The Page: Textual (Re)Constructions of Disability

Co-Organizers: Derek Newman-Stille (Trent University) + M.W. Bychowski (George Washington University)

Proposals to:

I am not nostalgic, reaching backwards toward a re-creation of the past. Rather I am reaching toward my bones. When I write about losing that place, about living in exile, I am putting words to a loss which also grasps at my bones. The body as home, but only if it is understood that language lives under the skin.

~Eli Clare, Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation

Disabled bodies are written on, constructed by acts of writing (through medical reports and political processes) and become metaphors within written discourse (often standing in as metaphors for something “wrong” with political bodies). Disability is a textual construction. As Tanya Titchkosky suggests “Disability appears in the everyday life of text in a host of seemingly contradictory ways … . The very ways that disability is included in everyday life are, also, part of that which structures the continued manifestation of disabled people as a non-viable type.” The disabled body transcends historical moments and geographic regionalism, yet its articulations are highly temporal and geographically specific as cultures construct disability differently depending on socio-economic, political, ideological, and artistic ideas, constantly subjecting the category of disability to revision while simultaneously naturalizing it as a category that has always been present. Disability is hypervisible as something that is readily noticed by a society that constructs certain types of abilty as normal, and yet is constantly subject to erasure.

This panel will explore the inherent contradictions in the construction of disability, examining the cluster of ideas and assumptions that become attached to the articulation of the ‘different’ (i.e. non-normate) body, while simultaneously examining the textual body that makes and re-makes disability. In order to explore the temporal and geographic flexibility of meaning in disability, we will examine texts from diverse historical moments, regions, and genres. The disabled body has been written into being, and this panel will examine the way the body and bodies of literature intersect and mutually construct each other.

Blackening the Books: The Abiding “Africanist Presence” in the Pre- and Early Modern English Literary Canon

Organizer: Cord J. Whitaker (Wellesley College)

Proposals to:

It is only through the distinction between the white space of the page and the black pigment of ink that words become visible. It is only in contrast and distinction that meaning issues forth from books. In Playing in the Dark, her study of the relevance of blackness to American literature, Toni Morrison argues that a “dark, abiding, and signing Africanist presence” animates canonical American literature. She calls for future “studies that analyze the strategic use of black characters to define the goals and enhance the qualities of white characters…, [that] will reveal the process of establishing others in order to know them, to display knowledge of the other so as to ease and to order external and internal chaos.” What if this “dark, abiding, and signing” presence extends back beyond the dawn of American modernity? What if Morrison’s temporal location of the Africanist presence ought to be rethought according to criticisms such as Geraldine Heng’s: that race studies suffers from “[a] blind spot…a cognitive lag that makes theory unable to step back any further than the Renaissance”? While an increasing amount of work in medieval and early modern studies makes a point of exploring the roles of black and white bodies in texts that participate in Christian crusading and European colonizing discourses, this panel seeks to go further: recognizing the importance of bodies in literature, this panel will also consider blackness as that which creates and transmits meaning. Panel participants will ask, what are the connections between the abiding Africanist presence, that surely predates European colonization of the New World, and blackness in the body? in the ink? in damage to the page? the metaphorical ‘blackness’ of historical lacunae, voids, that shroud literary history? Presentations will consider medieval and postmedieval canonical literature by Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton, among others. Presentations will trade on the notion that ‘blackening the books’ is at once to shroud aspects of literary meaning, including the Africanist presence, in shadow and mystery; to recognize their hiddenness; and necessary in order to create, reveal, and transmit meaning. Finally, panelists are encouraged to ask: what are the implications for medieval and early modern studies, race studies, and literary study on the whole if blackness is a manifestation of hiddenness and revelation, of that which resists analysis and the very stuff of analysis itself?

In the interest of experiencing the destabilizing powers of blackness to obscure and reveal meaning, and to change and undermine the reader’s experience and expectation of literary meaning in canonical texts, the session organizers encourage session attendees to respond as frankly as possible to the ‘blackening’ of canonical texts, registering fears and anxieties that are perhaps beyond the limits of acceptable conversation and politically correct discourse. To this end, before and during the panel, session attendees will be invited to post comments, questions, and even emotional reactions that will remain “off the books” — anonymous. Panelists will select posts for discussion during the question and answer period. Presentations will take the form of short papers — no more than ten minutes in length, and possibly shorter, depending on the final number of presenters.

Booking It: Toward a Speedy Book of Speed

Co-Organizers: Michael Harwick (Ohio State University) + Travis Neel (Ohio State University)

Proposals to:

As this meeting’s initial call suggested, the book is an emblem of “a slow process of cultural production, one that is often valued so highly precisely because it is perceived as difficult, painstaking, voluminous, weighty, and ‘serious’—the worthy achievement of a certain Olympiad-style intellectual athleticism.” While partly valid, we want to consider alternative histories of book productions, ones that emphasize the quick over the slow, the agile sprint over athletic endurance. Hence, “booking it” — moving with haste, fleeing the scene, attempting to escape, right quick. After all, book-making and publishing have long been subject to capitalism’s addiction to speed, or at least its reluctance to hang around and wait. Collected volumes of initially serialized work, published plays, pamphlets, chapbooks — these objects testify to the injunction against hesitation inherent to industrial publication. Yet even apart from the publishing world, there are times when jotting and scribbling are personally efficacious. Commonplace books, miscellanies, diaries, cookbooks, anthologies, and zines take the architecture of the book and fill in the blank. Ironically they may eventually be marketed as polished and tidied products, evidence of personal haste expunged. Even academics have long suffered and enjoyed, in a peri-capitalistic productive space, the journal, the monograph, and the edited collection, where the pressures of speed, time, and production are unevenly distributed from press to press.

This workshop will begin online, with a series of curated images, videos, texts, and other objects dealing with the idea of speed and the book. Participant-curators will also submit a scanned facsimile of a single page, making use of all of its resources (layout, color, font size, shape, orientation, and their plurals) to best explicate the relationship between their objects and speed. All participants, however many, in our Toronto session must submit a page and curated object in advance. We will accept entries on a rolling basis from June 1 to October 1. Participants are expected to check the website continually for updates and to be familiar with the whole catalog before BABEL 2015.

We will meet at our two-hour workshop in Toronto, physical pages in hand. Our goal there will be to cut, paste, deform, pulp, copy, recopy, edit, and ultimately “bind” our pages together into a “Speedy Book of Speed,” a synthesized theory of speed in the context of book production. In our first hour, we will begin, provisionally, with speed-dating, pairing off pages so as to discover and define affinities, frameworks, connections, and contrasts. Collectively, we may develop a timetable to structure our labor, maximize efficiency, and meet our goal in a timely fashion (in our remaining hour). Conversely, we might also decide not to decide, and work at our own pace, in our own ways, determinedly undetermined. At the end of two hours we expect to have produced a new set of pages, moving toward a “Speedy Book of Speed” in spite of our own inevitable exhaustion – or perhaps due to our energized overstimulation. Related to curatorial roots, it may also theorize its own production, its effects on our bodies, on our minds, on our language. The product(s) of our time together will be uploaded to our website as a digital catalog of our “book” that may not be to provide a forum for continuing conversation, development, and (perhaps) materialization.

Books Doing Things

Co-Organizers: Mary Kate Hurley (Ohio University) + Andrew Kraebel (Trinity University)

Proposals to:

Books engender a variety of metaphors that reflect their power over the humans that give them form and content. They move their human authors. They change our minds. Books are a medium through which the dead continue to influence generation after generation of the living — their voices amplified or modulated, as it were, by the way in which books circulate, reframe, and recreate their words. In his influential study We Have Never Been Modern, Bruno Latour argues that in order to understand the ultimately fictive category of the “Social,” we must trace the networks that emerge between entities whose characteristics we do not limit in advance. Considered in a particular way, a rock can have an agency of its own, even if that agency is not precisely the same as a human’s. Networks that shape the world can thus include not only humans and states but “at the same time and in the same breath, the nature of things, technologies, sciences, fictional beings, religions large and small, politics, jurisdictions, economies, and unconsciousnesses” (Bruno Latour). Recent understandings of such agential objects (including Jane Bennett’s vibrant matter, Stacy Alaimo’s trans-corporeality, Graham Harman’s object-oriented philosophy, and Timothy Morton’s hyperobjects, to name just a few) take up the challenge posed in Latour’s work and continue to explore the implications of his ideas for a range of materials. What each of these thinkers has in common is their insistence that the world is shaped by forces larger than and irreducible to human volition, desires, and agency.

In this session, we ask how medieval books might be reimagined in this new ecology of agential objects. Paper proposals might consider such questions as: In what ways can we think about medieval books as agential objects? How do they demonstrate their changing agency, both in the Middle Ages and across time? How do individual elements of the codex — annotations, paper or parchment, holes, scrapings, marginalia — exercise agency in ways that are different from the codex as a whole? How can theories of agential objects influence our understanding of book history? How does the circulation of manuscripts influence the behaviors of humans — or of other non-human actants? What kind of agency can we find in a medieval manuscript, and how is it different from the agency of a printed book? What role might book history play in ongoing attempts to theorize a more lively ecology of texts? Do medieval writers recognize the agency of their codicological objects, and, if so, how do they describe it? Put another way: How do medieval books change the world?

Books In and Of the World: Objects and Interfaces

Co-Organizers: Hannah Ryley (Worcester College, University of Oxford) + Tom White (Birkbeck College, University of London)

Proposals to:

Julian Yates observes in Error, Misuse, Failure that unbound pages form a “contiguous link” with the world. Consisting of four to five short presentations (5-10 mins) to be followed by open conversation, ‘Books in and of the world: objects and interfaces’ asks participants to think further about the ways in which medieval and early modern pages, books and texts constitute various contiguous links with the world-at-large, past and present. Presentations might focus on those objects and additions that books accrued in the medieval and early modern periods, such as tabs, bookmarks, graffiti, volvelles, inserted leaves, fabric covers, even wax seals or squashed spiders. In bringing these objects to the centre of attention, speakers are particularly invited to consider how academic consideration has hitherto occluded, obscured, or otherwise sidelined these extraordinary, contingent assemblages. What kinds of temporalities or untold histories are reactivated as we encounter these communally produced and materially composite objects? Participants might also wish to consider medical or culinary recipe books, charms, inventories, astrological tables, word books, herbals, calendars, horticultural manuals and other textual and diagrammatic interfaces; how do these texts mediate between their bookish existence and the world? How do they gather multiple actants into shifting ensembles over decades and centuries? Books have always been in flux, existing in what William Sherman has called a “dynamic ecology of use and reuse.” We invite proposals that seek to follow these dynamic ecologies still further, wherever (and whenever) they may lead.

We encourage presenters to discuss these objects and texts in any way they feel fits the subject matter best: zoomed-in case studies of a particular phenomenon or book are welcome, as are quick-fire snapshot encounters, scattered or discontinuous vignettes and narratives, time-lapse chronologies or slow-pan overviews. Selected quotes drawn from the discussion will be jotted down on tags and festooned around the venue. Audience and participants alike will share in the communal act of creating this physical, fragmentary record of the event. These testimonials will offer reminders of what was said, will act as a reverse scavenger hunt/material-world Twitter, and, we hope, will prompt continued discussion ‘off the books.’

Consorting and Teaching within Disciplinary Lacunae

Co-Organizers: Ben “Bobcat” Ambler (Arizona State University + TEAMS) + Pamela M. Yee (University of Rochester + METS)

Sponsoring Organization: TEAMS: The Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages

Proposals to:

Since 1990, TEAMS has been publishing the Middle English Texts Series, with Medieval Institute Publications producing print editions of the texts, while the METS staff at University of Rochester maintains online, open-access copies. Our mission has been for the past two and a half decades to fill the lacunae in the availability of Middle English texts, to illuminate the medieval corpus with works whose lines had not yet been filled in. But what gaps in the Teaching of the Middle Ages have we left unfilled? And just whom are we a Consortium of? While METS is ostensibly a literary resource, how has it, and can it, be productively collated into the classroom in other fields? What other pedagogical compilers copy METS into their miscellanies; what other curricular stemmata lie untraced? Moreover, METS is just one of TEAMS’s pedagogical series — and just one of several substantial efforts to broaden free access to and develop the teaching of the premodern — think Records of Early English Drama’s eREED initiative, the Digital Scriptorium, the Perseus Digital Library, the Victorian Lives and Letters Consortium. Projects like these already offer vast holdings of primary sources otherwise difficult or impossible to use in the classroom, but there is still much left to be done. TEAMS, for instance, has 80 METS volumes online, but there are a further 66 in the pipeline. So, how might TEAMS and other organizations dedicated to free online information on the premodern compile digital quires to best serve not only the teaching of the texts we publish, but the many interests in and uses of these resources outside of the literary classroom, or the classroom, period? How are texts being “bound” in courses on history, religion, art history, philosophy, or others? And what of access and use outside of Academe, in high schools, public libraries, and beyond? How can organizations new and longstanding ensure that not only medium, but format and dissemination, make their resources for all?

TEAMS seeks to turn the page across this gutter, to look for feint, penciled initials that signal lacunae between disciplines and communities, initials that we might inhabit in order to discover and generate new primary-source-based pedagogies — particularly ones that wield and augment these digital unbooks to their fullest. What should we scrape away, redact, or author anew? While maintaining our service to the teaching of our home disciplines, what gaps, intentional or unexpected, can we gloss, pedagogically foliate, and populate with instructional zoomorphs?

This session is a speculative workshop to last 90 minutes. TEAMS seeks folks from disciplines and organizations afield from literature, and particularly engaged in using digital resources, to open the book on how they already have, and/or propose we all might, use free resources like METS or others to consort in lacunal commons. We invite participants to lead with brief pedagogical anecdotes, curricular outlines, team-teaching testaments, calls to action, etc., in order to open a conversation with not an audience, but a pop-up braintrust of teachers, scholars, medievalists, humanists, scientists, artists, and publics. Over the course of 90 minutes, we hope the session will highlight how we might leverage our habitation in multiple, overlapping communities to begin copying down the future of METS and other open-access initiatives. How can we be, at our core, a consortium with anyone who opens the proverbial book?

Counter Productivity: Valuing Scholarly Processes

Co-Organizers: Marian Bleeke (Cleveland State University) + Asa Simon Mittman (California State University, Chico)

Sponsoring Organizarion: The Material Collective

Proposals to:

This session shifts attention to that which typically remains “off” of our own scholarly books, journal articles, essays, conference papers, and the like, that is, the practices through which we develop exactly those works, those “finished products.”  The existing discourse on scholarly practices, and on scholarly writing practices in particular (hosted by the Chronicle of Higher Education, among other venues), is typically focused on reforming practices or adopting new ones in order to enhance productivity and so meet career goals (earning tenure, for example).  While this material can be valuable, and while the goals it supports are valid, it is also unfortunately of a piece with other contemporary pressures on those of us engaged in academic work to be increasingly productive in order to justify our work and so ourselves to our employers, to politicians, and to a public increasingly skeptical of higher education.  This session instead shifts attention to our practices precisely in order to counter such a heightened emphasis on productivity.  Thus, the session is not intended to present tips and techniques for increasing productivity, but instead, to foster reflection on our own practices as a way of granting them value independent of their final products — indeed independent of their success or failure in generating final products.  To do so, we (The Material Collective) ask the following questions of the members of the Babel community: What do you actually do when reading for a research project?  When you get to the library, archive, museum, or other site of research and encounter the manuscripts, collections of papers, works of art, or other materials that you have come to see?  What do you do when you are thinking?  When you sit down to write?  And what do you find yourself doing instead when you are meant to be doing any of these things?  Finally how and why did you develop your own scholarly practices?  Have your practices as a scholar shifted over time and if so how and why?   The session that enacts this questioning will consist of two parts, each 30 minutes in length.  The first part will be a roundtable in which approximately five participants will give brief (approximately five minute) presentations in which they reflect on some aspect(s) of their own scholarly practices.  The second will feature small breakout group discussions, each facilitated by one of the roundtable participants, that will encourage members of the roundtable audience to reflect upon their own practices.  A survey that will inform the discussion will be circulated online before the conference and at the registration table in Toronto.

To those interested in participating in the roundtable/facilitating the discussions, please send a brief statement of interest that identifies the practice(s) you plan to discuss.

Dishin’ Dirt on the Digital

Organizer: Kathleen Ogden (University of Toronto)

Proposals to:

At least in part, the rationale behind digitization in medieval literary studies is that there are things that can be gleaned from even a very partial witness of a manuscript’s physical characteristics; and that seeing manuscripts can provide insight into the age and culture that led to their production. Using these digitized manuscripts as primary course texts can open up questions of production and consumption, about material culture of the text in the medieval period, and both the material and social circumstances that allowed for and demanded the constructions of such texts. Likewise, however, the widespread production and use of these digitized manuscripts for teaching and research in the humanities might compel us to ask: What are the social, cultural, material, economic, political, etc. conditions that make these digitized manuscripts possible? What might we learn by interrogating the material basis of the production, transmission, consumption, etc. of the digitized manuscript? In fact, interrogating the material conditions that make such technological material possible reveals what journalist Nicholas Kristof calls the “ugly paradox of the 21st century”: “that some of our elegant symbols of modernity — smartphones, laptops and digital cameras—are built from minerals that seem to be fueling mass slaughter and rape,” particularly in conflict-ridden areas such as the Democratic Republic of Congo. And while the extraction of conflict minerals is a fundamental issue in the production of digital texts, another material reality of the digital as a medium for literary transmission and consumption is the disposal of electronic wastes produced by nature of the fact that the pace of technological advances far outstrips the lifespan of the hardware—a “planned obsolescence” that produces extraordinary amounts of hazardous material waste, most of which is shopped out to poorer nations for “recycling.” In fact, the techniques employed to perform this “recycling” would be illegal in the country of the waste’s origin: the processes are so toxic that they are illegal by North American workplace safety and environmental standards, and yet the waste can legally be transported elsewhere.

This session aims to open up questions that may be uncomfortable: do scholars and teachers in the humanities have a responsibility to acknowledge the material conditions that make their digital work possible? How can humanities scholars discuss the issues of the use of digitization and technologically-driven material without opening up questions about the source of the materials that make this work possible? Can the human and environmental costs of these technologies be outweighed by the benefits that humanities scholarship purports to deliver? Any number of people can participate in this session, but the aim is to gather 5-10 confirmed discussants. Proposals regarding literature and culture are, of course, always welcome; but due to the inter-disciplinary, deeply human nature of this issue, this session encourages participation from scholars across the humanities, geography, and the political and physical sciences.

Extrajudicial [*may be full; send query]

Organizer: Karl Steel (Brooklyn College and The Graduate Center, CUNY)

Queries to:

The fantasy of law is not just that of monopolizing legitimate violence, and of seeing to it that inheritance (and with it the community) moves properly across time and generations, and of ensuring that the health – physical, spiritual, intellectual, and otherwise – of the citizenry be preserved. It is a fantasy of complete coverage, one that inscribes even the most banal of acts within itself. In such cases, the law’s indifference is a temporary condition (“we don’t have a rule for that yet”) or a mercy (“you [white] boys go along home now”), whose bestowal itself attests to the law’s own arbitrary, self-generating decision. As Zizek among others observes, the law’s truth is, in fact, its unwritten rules, the real, unscribable law of custom and habit through which a polis really functions. This unwritten law goes by names like “respect,” “community standards,” “heritage,” or “constitutional originalism,” all of which might be thought of as screens over the real and unnameable core content of the law. This unwritten law is the law that’s Off the Books. It’s what the law silently supports or ignores when it chooses to act without an official record or official endorsement of its acts. Notorious instances of this supposedly “extrajudicial” violence include the pogroms in the Rhine Valley in 1096 and 1348-51, the submission of the Burghers of Calais, with lives spared by a king who let them know he could very well have killed them to a man, and, in the United States of America, in both the supposed extrajudicial terror of lynching and, most recently, the repeated non-indictments of homicidal police officers.

This session invites papers on violence, sovereignty, mercy, and terror that engage with this theme of extrajudiciality. The four presenters who will comprise this 75-minute session will deliver papers of roughly 12-15 minutes apiece, which will conclude with a short commentary at the end by the session organizer. The one element that will strictly be on the books is time limit for presenters, who will be expected to be respectful of their fellow presenters and the need for time for discussion. The session will expect the set of papers to move from the Middle Ages, to the Early Modern Period, to contemporary America and perhaps into its transnational involvements. While Schmitt, Benjamin, Foucault, Esposito, and Agamben will inevitably be theoretical touchstones for several of our presenters, participants are invited to draw on examples closer to our North American context, with an eye especially at the way that unwritten rules sustain racism, economic hardship, and gendered violence, and leave most lives unwritten and unmourned.

Fabulous, a Manifesto for Aesthetic Radicalization [*may be full; send query]

Organizer: Roland Betancourt (University of California, Irvine)

Queries to:

Byzantium was fabulous. Byzantium is fabulous. Glimmering icons, covered in gold, emperor-intellectuals, imperial courts of philosophers, transgender monks, eunuchs that constituted a third-gender, writers who used queer rhetorical genders for their self-identification, erotic monastic relationships, elaborately-staged imperial pageantry, pompous processions of relics and icons, slut-shamed empresses, palatial automata, silks, embroideries, red bedazzled shoes, excesses and luxury — the envy of the eastern and western worlds. Byzantium was fabulous by all extents of the word. This is not the fabulous that comes from fabulawith its chivalric snootiness, and that grotesquely elongated u. Instead, Byzantium’s fabulousness is one of radicalized queer affect. The type of exclamation exalted in the space of a drag show, and one that comes with the critical force and fierceness of glamour, excess, and going off the books with close friends and conspirators. This panel seeks to investigate the possibilities of being ferociously fabulous — that is, possibilities for going off the books and becoming radicalized as a total aesthetic project with the immediate present as its only stakeholder.

As such, this two-hour session demands that a militantly diverse group of panelists do away with their usual academic sources and instead turn fervently to contemporary popular culture for their theoretical paradigms. Drawing from (and deploying) content and social media from tumblr to Snapchat, Beyoncé to Nicki Minaj, papers will thus seek to articulate for us manifestos of what fabulous can be and how the aesthetics and ethics of fabulousness can be readily deployed as a method for engaging medieval pasts for our contemporary presents — with a particular eye on art, theology, and the medieval eastern Mediterranean world (i.e. Byzantium and the Islamic world). In this regard, this panel is both a recovery of structures of fabulousness for the medieval — lost over years of accruing severity and historicity, muddled under the guise of serious academic work — and also a way of postulating new forms of fabulous being and affect to blaze forth new spaces and structures in which to perceive the imperative/exclamation of fabulousness.


Co-Organizers: Steven Swarbrick (Brown University) + Tom White (aka Mt. Judge) (Birbeck University of London) + Anna Klosowska (Miami University)

Proposals to:

These images are like a skin, or a film,

Peeled from the body’s surface, and they fly

This way and that across the air.

. . .

So there are, all around us, shapes and forms

Of definite outline, always on the move,

Delicate, small, woven of thread so rare

Our sight cannot detect them.


Writing in Book 4 of his De rerum natura, the philosopher-poet Lucretius turns to the subject of semblances in order to describe an image-world in which images are themselves material entities, what he elsewhere refers to as “atoms” or “seeds.” These images move, they assemble and reassemble, and from these shifting assemblages derive visibilities, tangibilities, the phenomenological world, indeed, “our” bodies. What Lucretius describes is not a world of things, but a world of events: “Whatever has been done may be called an accident [eventum] either of the whole earth or of the region in which it occurred,” Lucretius states. Whatever the case, the principle guiding these events is the same throughout De rerum natura: that all things emerge from the chance meeting of atoms, and that from these meetings, multiple/incommensurable scales of space-time, matter, and causality are put in touch. Touching on queer theorizations of time by Elizabeth Freeman and Carolyn Dinshaw, as well as posthumanist understandings of matter by Karen Barad and Stacy Alaimo, the image in Lucretius proves crucial to thinking the “erotohistoriography” of the “book” from the codex to the paperback to the e-reader and beyond. Indeed, Lucretius begins his poem by comparing the chance combination of atoms with the variety of his own letters: “in my lines here you can see the letters / Common to many of the words, but you know Perfectly well that resonance and meaning, / Sense, sound, are changed by changing the arrangement. / How much more true of atoms than of letters!” (1.824-828).

Touching, rubbing, colliding, feeling, but never re-presenting — Lucretius describes letters that are audiovisual and tactile. Consequently, this panel will explore what happens when our eyes touch, taste, smell, or hear the matter of the “book.” From poetic ekphrasis to the role of music in fiction and film, we seek proposals that investigate the relationship between the “book” (broadly construed) and other media ecologies, including (but not limited to): film, digital media, sound studies, affect, material cultural, disability, (trans)sexuality, and object-oriented ontology.

Guides for Medieval Time-Travel: A Round Table [*may be full; send query]

Organizer: Martin Shichtman (Eastern Michigan University) + Laurie Finke (Kenyon College)

Queries to:

On July 12, 1848, Ralph Waldo Emerson in the company of Thomas Carlyle visited Stonehenge. He wrote: “It had been agreed between my friend Mr. C. [Carlyle] and me, that before I left England we should make an excursion together to Stonehenge, which neither of us had seen; and the project pleased my fancy with the double attraction of the monument and the companion. It seemed a bringing together of extreme points, to visit the oldest religious monument in Britain, in company with her latest thinker, and one whose influence may be traced in every contemporary book” (Essays and English Traits). Emerson’s words forge a temporal link between Britain’s distant past and its contemporary literary culture in both England and America. In keeping with the theme for Babel 2015, this roundtable seeks to unpack the temporal connectivity Emerson describes between past and present, meditating on the ways in which texts subtend the tourist’s experience of medieval heritage sites. Participants will do so by focusing on the textual materials and visual representations that construct contemporary tourists’ expectations of medieval sites. We will address how desire is managed by tourist guide books, by the literary materials provided at the sites, and by the maps, CGI, models, and reconstructions that offer supplements to the experience of visiting. Through short provocative remarks, we will consider the interplay of these texts and the sites they describe, particularly focusing on the influences they exert over tourists’ imaginings of the Middle Ages.

Hermeneutics 2.0

Organizer: Anna Wilson (University of Toronto)

Proposals to:

The need for extra-institutional community between mobile academic and para-academic workers and the sudden prominence of the Digital Humanities means that a great deal of professional activity and community formation is happening in online spaces that nurture new hermeneutics, new ways of knowing and of sharing knowledge. Several recent articles have reflected on how Twitter has been shaping academic discourse in Medieval Studies in particular; scholars who livetweet are exploring the new hermeneutics that emerge when a 20-min conference paper is translated into 140 characters with hashtags. Less explored are the ways other social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, blogs, Youtube, Vine, and many others shape the way their users present information, both through the formats they invite — the fanvid, the anonymous comment, the emoticons, reaction gifs, lolcats, webcomics, image captioning — and through the norms of discourse and audience literacies that emerge from the communities that gather on these different platforms. This panel seeks to explore how academic work transforms, translates, mutates, or reframes itself when it emerges in the shape of an internet meme, a piece of fanfiction, a hover text. What is at stake in such a change, politically, professionally, emotionally, and academically? What are the affective currents surrounding these different hermeneutics and movement between them? Who reads, who benefits, and who is put off or ignored? What political aims may be served, or not, by embracing internet hermeneutics? Where are the limits and limitations of internet hermeneutics? Can we speak of an ‘internet hermeneutics’ at all?

This panel will be 90 minutes long. Five presenters will display, play, or read out something they have made that explores the conjunction of internet hermeneutics and academic scholarship (each presentation should take no more than 5 mins). This might be a short piece of fanfiction, a fanvid, a gifset, a collaborative comment thread, or anything else; we welcome creative contributions. These will provide a jumping off point for an hour of discussion between panelists, moderator, and audience.

Suggested reading/viewing:

Kate Beaton’s history webcomics

Medieval POC’s Tumblr

‘Historical RPF’ fanfiction on the Archive of Our Own

Fanvid: ‘Vogue-300’ by Luminosity (warning: explicit violent images)

Two Monks Inventing Things

Proposals need not describe the artefact or piece that you plan to present unless you have something specific in mind, but should situate yourself as an academic and describe the media, communities, or internet spaces your piece would explore, exploit, or emerge from. Collaborations or individual proposals welcome.

Literary Machine or War Machine: Violence Between Books and Bodies [*may be full; send query]

Co-Organizers: Kathleen E. Kennedy (Pennsylvania State University-Brandywine) + Susan Nakley (St. Joseph’s College, New York)

Queries to:

This session ponders violent intersections of books with bodies and text with flesh. We seek presentations that analyze instances of violence and trauma involving books, papers, and other inscribed materials. Literature, film, visual art, contemporary moments, and distant histories all show us bodies that collide violently with books, sometimes fortunately and at other times disastrously. For example, in the Thousand and One Nights, we meet the sage Duban and the treacherous, yet deeply curious King Yunan; the sage ultimately kills the king with a copy of the Secretum Secretorum, whose poisoned pages the king can not resist turning, even after he has the sage beheaded. And Spenser’s Faerie Queene presents the monster Errour, who most forcefully confronts the hero Red Cross Knight when she vomits stinking books and papers along with blind amphibians and Eucharistic flesh in the heat of their struggle. This past November, gun violence, an awfully ordinary occurrence in twenty-first century American life, produced an extraordinary image when a book on the fourteenth-century English theologian John Wycliffe intercepted a bullet shot at a Florida State University student, and then photos of the wounded tome circulated through the media.

Readers have long appreciated books as more than passive objects to be read, written, inscribed, bought, sold, borrowed, lent, and collected. Deleuze and Guattari have taught us that we can often learn more by asking how books function, especially in connection with other organ-less bodies and assemblages, than by asking what books mean. They see books as small rhizomatic machines that deterritorialize a world that then reterritorializes them. This session will explore how collisions of book with body relate the “literary machine to a war machine, love machine, revolutionary machine, etc. — and an abstract machine that sweeps them all along,” as Deleuze and Guattari write. It makes a space for meditations on the violent material and physical work that books often do — on what that work intimates about their more transcendent force and meaning.

Swappy Swipey Bacon: “Naive Translations” of Medieval Texts

Organizer: Jessica Lockhart (University of Toronto)

Proposals to:


“Ic seah wrætlice wuhte feower

samed siþian swearte · wæran lastas

swaþu swiþe blacu swift wæs on fore

fulgum framra fleotgan lyfte

deaf under yþe dreag unstille

winnende wiga se him wægas tæcneþ

ofer fæted gold feower eallū”


“I see wreaths with flowers

Same spellinged-swears wearing last as

swappy swipey bacon was quickly on fire

full of framing flotsam lift

deaf under the unsettling clouds…

winners’ wigs see him with wiggiest Tecumseth

over gold-footed flower allelujah”


Did I get it right?

~Facebook Exchange, 2 April 2014

One of the tasks of the medievalist academy is to provide access to ancient poems and objects via modern language translations and critical interpretations. Yet this task of translation is a troubled one. Medievalists within the academy often feel particular anxieties about the inadequacy of their language skills or knowledge; at Toronto, nightmares about sight-translation at the language exams are particularly common. Meanwhile, medieval texts and manuscript images often speak eloquently on behalf of medieval studies when they encounter a wider public, in their mix of strangeness and familiarity acting as prompts for creativity and playful engagement with language and with the past. My sister Emily Lockhart (a visual artist and designer) likes to create impromptu Facebook translations of unfamiliar medieval texts and artefacts. Emily’s translations help me to think about my own reading process differently, especially in those situations where I am called upon to interpret an object or text that is outside my own field of study. They are also a binding social activity, as Emily’s friends and mine come together over Emily’s translation work.

In the poetic tradition of experimental translation, and in honour of all quirky encounters with the Middle Ages, I invite you to participate in an hour-long workshop devoted to a ‘swappy swipey bacon’ approach to the riddles of medieval translation. Participants will be paired with images and brief texts in medieval languages and given half an hour to provide playful translations or explanations of as many as they wish, before sharing them with the group as a whole and opening up to general discussion. In the tradition of Jenny Sampirisi and Hugh Thomas’s workshop on ‘naive translation’ at the Scream Literary Festival in 2008, these texts will then be shared with the wider conference, both online and in paper form as a conversation-starting pamphlet. eth press has also expressed interest in publishing our results, whether in the form of a broadside or a short anthology. This playful session is particularly aimed at poets and non-academics participating in the conference, but medievalists of any stripe are also welcome to take part. Any number of people can participate in this session, but we are hoping to gather at least 5-10 confirmed participants.

Lost Libraries and Imagined Archives

Organizer: Lisa Weston (California State University, Fresno)

Proposals to:

Books that do not exist — some that may have existed once and others that may never existed at all, but might or should have — can intrigue and seduce as much as those that do. So what of the libraries that might have held such treasures? What was lost in the cinders of Alexandria? What unrecorded tablets, scrolls, and manuscripts have been lost to natural disaster, to war, to collapse of civilization, to religious or political extremism? Some libraries, like that of Herculaneum’s Vesuvius-scorched scrolls, may one day be recovered. What libraries might be conjured from among the as yet unreadable texts of Mohenjo-Daro? Or undeciphered Linear A or Cretan hieroglyphic texts? Are there other archives, as yet un-catalogued or even un-excavated, that might even now be perishing? What of those we can only imagine? What if it were possible to recover the lost “literatures” of a Cahokia or Skara Brae? And then there are those libraries and archives that exist not in physical reality but only in the popular imagination, like the Miskatonic University Library’s unspeakable (and yet frequently spoken of) collection of forbidden texts. What is the connection between what we commemorate/mourn as lost and what we imagine — in desire or fear — might be or have been?

This session welcomes short (5-10 minute) presentations/performances that seek to invoke the phantoms of such libraries, whether fully lost or still to be sought through scholarship and/or the imagination, engaging them in the form of short academic presentations, fictions, poetry, and/or other visual or aural formats. While focusing—as discussion of things lost will tend to do — on the past, it is to be hoped that this engagement will also to some measure address the perils of the present and future: the dangers of cultural conflict and censorship, the failure of institutional or corporate support, the fragility of e-texts and their personal and public repositories.

Medieval/Digital Graphesis: (Re)Mediating the History of the Book

Organizer: Dorothy Kim (Vassar College)

Proposals to:

In Johanna Drucker’s book Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production, she tackles the theoretical stakes of digital visuality by explaining that “all images are encoded by their technologies of production and embody the qualities of the media in which they exist. These qualities are part of an image’s informations” whether this be illuminated manuscript, daguerreotype, painting, photograph, or digital image. She highlights how the recent discussions in media archaeology have centered media production and how “reading the matter of media” is how meaning is configured. Digital media environments require multimodal reading, creation, and interpretation. However, digital media then relies more on the histories, theories, and epistemologies of the codex and book than it does on film and video. Film attaches itself to narrative theories, montage, “principles of temporal change, motion, animation” while digital web environments are heavily indebted to the history of the book and particularly the visual epistemology of mise-en-page codex organization refined in the twelfth and thirteenth century. The issues of layout, marginalia, paratext, columns, table of contents, indexes, chapter headings, are as Malcolm Parkes discusses in “The Influence of Ordinatioand Compilatio in the Development of the Book,” a development of the medieval scholarly book. These experimental page structures became standard in printed books and eventually in digital texts.

If the codex as developed in the Middle Ages is one of the earlier kinds of informational “interfaces” then we should consider it as a mediating apparatus: one in which the mise-en-page and material features, its myriad graphic cues explain how to read, use, navigate, and access information in the codex book. Then the digital interface requires us to consider how critical interface design can help us build digital projects that address how this mediating apparatus will change how our readers/users/subjects will interact and create interpretive iterative acts with their reading, access, and navigation of the digital information. What this means is a move away from the codex’s mise-en-page to a film’s visual mise-en-scène to an interactive digital mise-en-système, what Drucker describes as “an environment for action.” A digital mise-en-système is a digital ecology in which the main question posed is how the interface iteratively and at various moment can “enunciate” the subject/user/reader. Interface then is a “border zone between cultural systems and human subjects;” it is the co-dependent space where “speaker and spoken are created.”

This panel is interested in papers that (re)mediate ideas of the History of the Book and that theoretically as well as materially consider what mise-en-page/mise-en-système means for medieval manuscripts and/or digital medieval materiality. How does this open up the History of the Book and critical bibliography to attend to the affordances and issues of digital media? How does digital media archaeology and digital theories of graphesis help reframe ideas of medieval manuscripts and medieval media?

The Sweaty Scholar [*may be full; send query]

Co-Organizers: David Hadbawnik (University at Buffalo) + Alex Mueller (University of Massachusetts-Boston) + Benjamin Utter (University of Minnesota)

Queries to:

. . . you’ve got to get out of the library!

~Indiana Jones, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull 

Are you the Beowulf who strove with Breca / in a swimming contest on the open sea?

~Unferth, Beowulf, 506-7

He crossed in great pain and distress, wounding his hands, knees, and feet. But Love, who guided him, comforted and healed him at once and turned his suffering to pleasure.

~Chrétien de Troyes, Lancelot

“[T]hen she fell down and cried with a loud voice, wonderfully turning and wresting her body on every side, spreading her arms out as if she would have died and could not keep herself from crying, and from these bodily movements for the fire of love that burnt so fervently in her soul with pure pity and compassion.”

~Margery Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe

We regularly encounter characters from Beowulf to Lancelot to Margery who stretch the limits of their bodies in attempts to achieve transcendence. Yet, we often enjoy these corporeal feats from the sedentary environs of a library or study, acutely feeling the eagle’s rebuke of Chaucer, who “sittest at another book” . . . “domb as any stoon” (House of Fame, 656-8). Getting “off the books” is unthinkable when books get us off. In his letters and diaries, C.S. Lewis jokingly referred to his own aging body as “brother ass,” a euphemism he ascribes to Saint Francis, who mortified the flesh in order to transform his spirit. Many of us can attest that Lewis was not the last medievalist to subordinate considerations of the body to supposedly loftier intellectual pursuits; despite decades of coming to theoretical grips about the ways in which bodies signify and matter, the culture of the academy seems slow to abandon practices and priorities bordering on gnostic. Those of us who have had to explain – or keep quiet about – our athletic interests to advisors or colleagues have discovered that bodily health and exercise are among the sacrifices and deferrals that, it is so often assumed, one should be expected to make in order to pursue a scholarly vocation. Yet many of us also know about scholars who pack running gear in order to get their workout fix at conferences. There are serious athletes among us who enjoy running marathons, hiking, biking, and playing other sports. Indeed, contrary to the attitude of Lewis and the perception of many outside academia, a life in higher education can be conducive to athletic pursuits, as some take advantage of a relatively flexible and unstructured work schedule to get in their workouts. In what ways does being an academic, for some, allow for a greater commitment to exercise – and to what extent does the sweat generated by games and exercise fuel these scholars’ intellectual work?

This session features presentations that reflect on, theorize, or bear witness to the “sweaty scholar.” What does “work/life balance” mean for us, whose life-work is primarily cerebral? Do physical activity, training, and competition provide merely a diversion (however salutary) from scholarly work, or are there ways in which they can also inform it? Are disciplines of the mind and of the body mutually reinforcing? And in what ways might we approach these questions as medievalists? If there are certain ascetic attitudes and outmoded mind/body dualisms worth discarding from the academic culture, might there also be neglected models of embodiment worth recovering from the traditions we study?

The Unwritten Volume of the New: Poetics After the Book

Organizer: John Beer (Portland State University)

Proposals to:

she carries a book but it is not

the tome of the ancient wisdom

the pages, I imagine, are the blank pages

of the unwritten volume of the new

So says H.D. in Tribute to the Angels (1945). In these lines from the book collected in her book Trilogy, the poet might be seen to both exemplify and prefigure a major strand of post-war American poetics, that which takes the book as a unit of poetic composition, and one that thereby seeks to undo , or perhaps revise, traditional thinking about poetics in the service of an ever-to-be-written novelty. Key figures here include H.D.’s devotee Robert Duncan, who continually reconfigures the boundaries of the book both in his own poetic composition and in his critical study The H.D. Book, as well as Duncan’s San Francisco Renaissance compatriot Jack Spicer, whose post-1955 compositions highlight the book both as aesthetic integer and material, local object. In the wake of such mid-century experiments, and their aftermath in the Language writing of the 70s and 80s, in what ways does the book retain its relevance for poetry as both oppositional and generative for contemporary poetic practice? How have growingly omnipresent digital technologies led poets to imagine both alternatives and extensions to the traditional book? In what yet-unimagined forms might the book continue to figure the unwritten possibilities of the new for poets?

This panel seeks to investigate both the extant potential within the idea of book as compositional unit, the continual vitality of which might be instanced by such recent projects as Stephanie Young’s Ursula, or University, Douglas Kearney’s The Black Automaton, or CA Conrad’s Ecodeviance, and the challenges to the centrality of the print book offered by such online publishing projects as Troll Thread or Gauss-PDF, along with more technologically sophisticated forays into electronic poetry. Topics for discussion may include such issues as the relationship between part and whole embodied within particular poetic book-length works, the serial poem vis-à-vis the book (e.g. Nathaniel Mackey, Joseph Donahue, Craig Santos Perez), the book as contemporary epic, the multimedia book (e.g. Theresa Hak Kyung Cho, Jennifer Tamayo, Claudia Rankine), the place of the book in oppositional poetics, including feminist, multicultural, queer, transgender, and disability projects, and the relation of the poetics of the book to the poetics of new media.

This is Not a Journal: Publishing as Pedagogy

Co-Organizers: Chris Friend (Saint Leo University) + Sean Michael Morris (Hybrid Pedagogy) + Kris Shaffer (University of Colorado-Boulder) + Jesse Stommel (University of Wisconsin-Madison) + Robin Wharton (Georgia State University)

Sponsoring Organization: Hybrid Pedagogy

Queries to:

This session will have no papers. No presentations. It will be a discussion. A town hall. A crowdsourced State of the Union for Academic Publishing. In lieu of traditional proposals, we ask prospective attendees to contribute to this crowdsourced reading list in advance of the session. Anyone and everyone are welcome even if we need to spill out of the room and into the hall. Hybrid Pedagogy builds platforms upon which participants can engage in meta-level thinking about teaching and learning. We focus less on building an archive for the preservation of ideas, and more on building networked communities of inquiry consisting of scholars, pedagogues, alt-academics, post-academics, and students.

The codex is an amazing technology — portable, durable, and surprisingly versatile. Even so, its functional limitations circumscribe what we can do with books. To imagine digital books is not just to re-think what books can be or what forms they might take. To imagine digital books turns reading and writing into pedagogical processes. While we would like to make digital texts that are as durable as currently available technology allows, we also think we should entertain the possibility of making texts that become obsolete as soon as their immediate critical pedagogical purpose is fulfilled — texts that exist in and for the moment.

In this session, participants will play a game called “Martian codicology”: Pretend you’re an interstellar visitor. You understand scholarly publishing as a concept, but you don’t know about the forms that publishing takes on Earth. What would you think about the scholarly publishing industry and its products, about the socio-economic and regulatory structures that have accreted around it, about libraries? We will glimpse a history of the book as a series of trade-offs in which we have given up, sometimes knowingly, sometimes unintentionally, the affordances of one mode, medium, or technology in order to realize the potential of another. Participants will collectively author a “field report” in which we re-view publishing, opine on when a book is (not) a book, and consider whether we are creating texts or, rather, user interfaces.

Rather than seeking presenters, we are instead looking to assemble a group of confirmed participants who will, in advance of the session, propose one or two texts — broadly construed — as sites of investigation. These texts will be assembled into a “reading list” that can be shared publicly prior to the conference, and will provide a focus for our serious game. Our crowd-authored field report, and any other session “artifacts” (e.g., social media back-channel, photos, reflections by session attendees, etc.) will be curated to document our work together.

Throwing Books, Bursting Lives [*may be full; send query]

Co-organizers: Givanni M. Ildefonso-Sánchez (City University of New York) + Alhelí de María Alvarado-Díaz (Columbia University)

Queries to:

This session regards the book as object. The etymology of the word object, as ‘that which is thrown against,’ allows us to metaphorically consider the book as a thing meant to be thrown. The image of something being thrown constitutes, in itself, an act of violence, meant to startle, affect, hurt, offend, break, dissociate, dismember. We are imagining the book as a projectile, originating from a specific time and place, creating targeted and collateral damage. We are imagining the book as a grenade, whose explosions and implosions, both intended and unintended, generate immediate and delayed consequences, thus propelling an individual, a group, or a whole community into spheres unimaginable, both within oneself and without, within time and outside of time, all the while stirring complexities in understanding ourselves, our pre-established notions of authority, truth, knowledge, and value.

Our session invites proposals that will look at the book as a provoker of aesthetic ideals, of new (and radical) social and political experiences, and of new ways of being and living. This panel will seek to trace the manifold detonations of the book as it shatters and helps reconstruct various moments in the realms of the individual (emotional, psychological, educational) and the collective (political, social, historical), in and across time. From literary, political, and philosophical points of view, we raise the question of what does it mean for the book, as an object, to inflict a blow on us. Therefore, the panel for this session is interested in determining the reach and extension of the impact of the book. We understand, however, that oftentimes the book may fail to detonate. In this case, we look to see who is “safe” or immune in what could otherwise be a minefield. In what sense can it be said that we are immune to the violence of the book? Finally, in light of present and future detonations, we are particularly interested in pursuing the question of whether the book carries the same force, impact, and intensity when it is no longer a tangible object. From the point of view of our present societies, in which digital technologies are changing the reader’s experience, it seems pertinent to ask in what ways is the disappearance of manuscripts and the demise of books in paper changing the reader’s experience. Can we talk about Internet as the new Library of Babel, or could it be something else? Whether a book is presumably thrown “in good faith,” like Michel de Montaigne’s Essais, or not, the book as object still impinges a force on us that deserves close attention. Participants in this panel will set out to do just that.

Vexted Texts: Re-Coding Cultures

Co-Organizers: Alexa Huang & Jonathan Hsy (George Washington University) + Carol Robinson (Kent State University)

Sponsoring Organizations: GW Digital Humanities Institute + Medieval Electronic Multimedia Organization

Proposals to:

This collaborative 60-minute session is a joint-proposal from two entities “within” and “outside” the university: the GW Digital Humanities Institute (George Washington University) and the Medieval Electronic Multimedia Organization (MEMO). “Global Shakespeares” (co-directed by Alexa Huang) and the “Global Chaucers” project (co-directed by Jonathan Hsy) share with MEMO (co-founded by Carol Robinson) an abiding interest in the re/mediation of cultures and premodern texts via present-day performance and translation. As part of #BABEL15, we seek to collectively explore how the local and global circulation of canonical Western texts (such as Shakespearean film, Chaucerian YouTube videos, or “Everyman” productions in English and ASL) challenge us to think “beyond the codex” or bound book as the paradigm for textual creation and dissemination. How do digital projects and networked online communities open up new archives of cultural artifacts beyond texts? What are the vexed ethics of translation and appropriation when we cross boundaries of language, culture, community, or embodied difference? We invite proposals for presentations ranging from conventional papers to video presentations or other kinds of performances that think “beyond the codex” to reinvent premodern texts. In responding to this call, specify what format your presentation will take, and please keep in mind that your presentation must be under 10 minutes. Note: This session will form part of series of conversations that the multi-site UNICORN Cloud Conference / MEMO is organizing in collaboration with professional literary and medievalism conferences, including: Tolkien Day at Ohio State University (February 2015), the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo (May 2015), Middle Ages in the Modern World in Lincoln (June 2015), International Medieval Congress in Leeds (June 2015), and a pedagogy roundtable with TEAMS and BABEL at the New Chaucer Society Congress in London (July 2016).

Women’s Arts of the Body

Organizer: Irina Dumitrescu (Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn)

Proposals to:

At the beginning of Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, Philosophy arrives to drive out the Muses from Boethius’ cell. It is often said that the Philosophy is female because Latin philosophia is a feminine noun, and, indeed, the dialogue that follows continues a masculine tradition of inquiry and authorship. And yet, woven into this scene are not only female figures, but traces of women’s craft. Philosophy is a cloth-maker, having woven her own clothes, the Muses are described as actresses and whores, and both Muses and Philosophy aim to cure the sick Boethius with their healing arts. Although the dialogue that follows aims to teach the ailing man how to distance himself from worldly things, it begins with feminine craft and arts of the body.

This session invites contributions about women’s arts of the body, types of making that are “off the books” in two senses. Women’s lived experience is notoriously marginal to the historical written record, either effaced utterly or distorted in its representation. So are a host of practices and performances relating to the body that either were not deemed worthy of setting down, or were indeed nearly impossible to record. Such “arts of the body” include: spinning and weaving; needlework, knitting, sewing, quilting; cooking, baking, confectionery; brewing, distilling; pottery; cosmetics, hair-dressing; dancing, singing, acting; medicine, home-remedies, first aid; making perfumes and poisons; birth control, abortion, midwifery; sex-work.

Guiding questions are:

  • What biases do we find against feminine arts of the body, and how are they expressed in texts?
  • Under what historical circumstances do feminine “arts of the body” make it onto the books? When are they institutionally recognized, inscribed, recorded, or even just mentioned?
  • What effects do we notice due to the lack of a historical record? What kind of reconstruction or myth-making fills the archival gap?
  • In what cases do arts or crafts that had belonged to women become the purview of men, or vice versa?
  • How do women’s arts of the body intersect with race, class, and sexual orientation?
  • How are women’s arts of the body appropriated as metaphors for men’s work?
  • When does women’s work count as work? When does women’s art count as art?
  • How have women’s arts of the body been taught or passed down? What can be recovered about women’s teaching practices?
  • What kinds of gendered spaces are created or used for women’s arts of the body?
  • What tools can be used to recover and/or reconstruct lost arts of the body?
  • How are women’s arts of the body reflected and addressed in the contemporary world, including in online communities (Pinterest, Instagram, etc.)?

Contributions can take the form of a traditional paper, a performance, a re-creation, a tutorial, the presentation of an object and discussion of it, or some combination of these. Proposals that include a performance or hands-on aspect are particularly encouraged.


B. Un/Sessions

A Book of Absent Whales

A Collaborative Project by Patrick Mahon (Artist) and Steve Mentz (St. John’s University, New York), in dialogue with the “Cetology” chapter of Moby-Dick

Queries to:

Our object here is simply to present the draught of a systemization….

Part I: The Folio Whale: Bones

I am the architect, not the builder.

We start with bones. Tools to mitigate absence. Materials to make books. The first part of this work is glass box containing the whitened bones of whales from the North Atlantic, mixed together with bones from a caribou. The box becomes a container and a screen: a book. Onto this filled vitrine is projected a series of images produced by artist, Patrick Mahon, and by other artists – including Brian Jungen, a First Nations Canadian sculptor. The images portray absent whales/whales as absence.

Part II: The Octavo Whale: Mediating Meditations

The classification of the constituents of a chaos

The second part consists of a short suite of classifying poems written by Steve Mentz that debate the constituents of chaos and the entanglement of water, mediation, and meditation. They will appear as a folded octavo chapbook. A letter-opener will be available to cut the pages.

Part III: The Duodecimo Whale: Invitations

But now I leave my cetological System standing thus unfinished, even as the great Cathedral of Cologne was left, with the crane still standing upon the top of the uncompleted tower. For small erections may be finished by their first architects; grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity. God keep me from completing anything. This whole book is but a draught – nay, but the draught of a draught. Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!

The third part takes advantage of the absence of the Authors to prompt written or sketched responses from participants at BABEL. The blank pages of a Book folded in duodecimo invite coverings. Some pages may contain question about the key terms of this project – bones, whales, systems, chaos, classification, “Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience” – to which we hope conference-goers will respond in unpredictable ways. Pens will be provided. A letter-opener will be available to cut the pages.

“Book’em … ”

Organizer: Ben “Bobcat” Ambler (Prison English Program, Arizona State University)

Queries to:

Steve McGarrett’s imperative catch-phrase to “Danno,” after they catch Hawaii 5-0’s crook-of-the-week is a cachet on the binding of a happy ending. But whose? And what happens to the accused, and convicted, after the credits roll? And what about when we leave McGarrett and his made-for-TV adversaries on the beach, and consider those real, complicated convicts, many of whom were victims themselves first, or “hardened” only during a previous, brief sentence, or are reformed/ing despite the system — or just had the book thrown at them? What happens to a person when they are written into the books of vast state, federal, and private for-profit systems — and out of our (their!) communities? What happens to such a person when they become the read object, a text of charges and violations, bound by an inmate number? And how does such a bound text rewrite its subjectivity?

In this world-apart, a pre-digital, twenty-first century, where books remain a printed affair and writing almost always by hand, picking up a book becomes a way of doing the holding in a place that holds you. And writing, often in the context of creative poetry and fiction workshops held by volunteer-educators, becomes a reclamation of voice, where the situation of self-to-other-to-world can be contemplated, reflexed, and reimagined in a textual agora apart from otherwise-scripted lives. Reading and writing in the most base sense are a means of inverting their position as the read and the written while bound, but also, once released, of rewriting life, rather than recidivizing. In this sense, it is a striving to stay off the books in which some find subjectivity and voice in continued creative writing: fiction, non-fiction, poetry.

So — what if these voices were heard? What if alongside and in addition to published voices we had recordings of them, too? Recent project Artists on the Outside seeks to build digital and analog agorae for the voices of these citizens to be heard. In its preliminary stages (c. Jan. 2015), Artists on the Outside is a collaboration among Punctum Records and former inmates qua artists, particularly in the Southwest. AOTOaims to focus on recognizing (former) inmates’ audial artistic expression (poetry, music, song, etc.), amplifying their voices, and publishing them as widely and freely as possible.

True to life for inmate artists, in form this will be an un-session. In one of the open spaces of the conference venue, Artists on the Outside will exhibit its work to date, and invite conversation from circulating BABELers to critique, inspire, aid, and unbind. Moreover, we would like you to exhibit with us! As a practice in community cultural development, this un-session seeks participants to create a sense of shared place: we seek artists and educators who have been touched in some way by the prison world to express how this experience has reflexed into their art, teaching, and/or scholarship. Have you been booked? Volunteered on the inside? Been the one left on the outside? Became involved with reform activism? Join us in creating: we invite proposals of an artistic or creative nonfiction piece in any medium — poetry, painting, prose, posters, sculpture, recording, live performance, etc. — that reflects your experience, that unbinds traditional notions of the “model citizen.” Once a community of exhibitioners is established, we will work together on how everyone’s shared pieces will work together in the space provided.

Building the BABEL Digital Archive

Organizer: Daniel T. Kline (University of Alaska, Anchorage)

Queries to:

So much faculty work remains invisible, especially our pedagogical work, and when our colleagues die, retire, or leave the profession, much of that work – often motivated by the deepest love for teaching, for learning, for students, for colleagues, for research, for society – seems to evaporate. The motivation for this ‘un-session’ comes from a place of mourning and of hope: mourning the loss of this profoundly important work and hope for its preservation and dissemination. As an ‘un-session’ we’ll meet at the interstices of other place-reserved sessions, but our discussions need not be any less animated, collaborative, or productive.

This is what I’m thinking for a 90-minute un-session:

  • 45 minutes of presentations/proposals/discussion starters in 5-7 minute bites – Ideas from folks who are willing to think about, investigate, and collaborate about specific aspects of the project. About 5-7 minutes per presentation?
  • 45 minutes of discussion/brainstorming/workshopping – Large group and other discussion to plan a way forward.

What, then, do we need to focus on for presentations? I’m soliciting for folks who would be willing to take on the task of preparing a 5-7 minute presentation on different aspects of the project — in the form of ‘best practices’ or a ‘proposal’ as the starting point for discussion. A few tasks that immediately come to mind:

  • Platform? What’s the best media platform to host this kind of archive (which needs to be scalable, searchable, indexable, and accessible).
  • Format? What digital form(s) should the archived materials take to be most user-friendly?
  • Structure? How should it be organized, monitored, and managed?
  • Access? What is the most efficient way for contributors to deposit, search, and access materials?
  • Software? What kind?
  • Crowdsourcing? How can the project take advantage of the power of crowdsourcing to, say, index the materials by tagging them?
  • Communication/Publicity? How can we best make folks aware of the project, encourage them to contribute, and recognize their contribution?
  • Funding/Hosting? Ideally, this is a project that might attract the attention of funding agencies or institutions. How can we take advantage of that?
  • Oversight? Should the project have any kind of ‘review board’ or governing structure?
  • Follow Up? What do we need to do – how do we need to organize ourselves – to keep the project going?

My hunch is to start small, smart, and scalable so that it can grow into something larger, more robust, and far reaching over time, and I can see the project taking on a life of its own with many different possibilities for collaboration, study, and research. But it need not be only for those reaching the end of their careers. It can be an archive where we actively share what we’re currently working on and on and on. I’ve also created a closed Facebook page for those who are interested in discussing the project: BABEL 2015: Working Toward a BABEL Digital Archive. Contact me if you’d like to be added.

eth press: poetry readings

Co-Organizers: Lisa Ampelman (University of Cincinnati) + David Hadbawnik (University at Buffalo) + Chris Piuma (University of Toronto) + Daniel Remein (University of Massachusetts, Boston)

Queries to:

eth press plans to host a few poetry interventions into the BABEL Working Group Meeting. These will probably occur in strategic bursts throughout the Meeting, although it is possible that we will have a single short poetry reading one night. If you are a poet who will be attending the conference, let us know at We are especially interested in poets who will be travelling to the conference who do not have institutional funding for conference travel. (We want to help give you extra exposure, and maybe help you sell a few books.) Poets who fit some part of eth press’s mission — in other words, poets who work in experimental traditions or who work with medieval texts in interesting ways — are especially encouraged.

eth press is a parascholarly poetry press interested in publishing innovative poetry that is inspired by, adapted from, or otherwise inhabited by medieval texts. It is an imprint of punctum books, an open-access and print-on-demand independent publisher dedicated to radically creative modes of intellectual inquiry and writing across a whimsical para-humanities assemblage. The editors are David Hadbawnik, Dan Remein, Chris Piuma, and Lisa Ampleman.

Failures of Permanence: A “Talking Points” Exhibition

Co-Organizers: J.R. Mattison (Jesus College, University of Oxford) + K.A. Sargan (Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford)

Queries to:

Books evoke an ideology of permanence: in putting pen to paper, and binding that paper together, we seek to record our words, keeping and preserving them for posterity. So what transpires when that physical record is utterly destroyed? What happens to a book when it is no longer permanent? Does impermanence constitute a book’s ‘failure’? And how do we cope with such failures? In this exhibition, participants will take part in an interdisciplinary, trans-temporal exploration of the ‘failed’ book as text, art, history, and material culture. Around the room, we will assemble and display, through images from the public domain as well as physical objects sourced from library and museum collections explained with exhibition labels, various examples of texts that have been destabilized. Using this exhibition as a prompt, we seek to explore multiple categories of altered books and invite participants to engage in a conversation about the meanings and limits of permanence with regard to the written — as well as the illegible — word. Through the presence and presentation of the objects in the room, we will test the boundaries of unreadablity as our group undertakes to offer an interpretation of books’ materiality, their permanent impermanence.

The exhibition and our collective musings upon it will consider texts that no longer exist, such as books that have been lost or destroyed (the Gospel of Eve, Peter Abelard’s Theologia, politicians’ deleted, offensive Tweets); palimpsests (Cicero’s De republica, the Archimedes Palimpsest, the Sana’a Palimpsest); ephemeral written objects (Snapchat Stories, oral culture, used ballot papers); books that have been rendered illegible or that have never been readable, perhaps due to damage (the petrified Herculaneum papyri, the Beowulfmanuscript, Terri Garland’s Square Bible); books written in undecipherable languages (the Voynich Manuscript, Luigi Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianus, Xu Bing’s Book from the Sky); texts that have been altered, changed, or redacted (the Biblical Apocrypha, James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough, Hergé’sTintin au Congo); books that never truly or fully existed, those that were left unfinished (Geoffrey Chaucer’sCanterbury Tales, Jane Austen’s Sanditon, Mark Twain’s The Mysterious Stranger); works that only exist in fiction (J. J. Abrams’s S, the writings of Randolph Henry Ash in A. S. Byatt’s Possession, P. J. Lovecraft’sNecronomicon); and book art (the work of Guy Laramée, Doug Beube, Dennis Ashbaugh). These groups, which overlap and influence one another, will allow us to consider how the objects speak to each other and to our conception of the book as a tool for communication.

Lost Cause Exchange: The Portable Library of the Corpse Exquisite

Organizer: Paula Billups (Artist)

Queries to:

This is a homeless library. This is the seat of throwaway thoughts, past revels, the map room for sunken cities, the anonymous diary of the creative commons. This is a modern archaeological journal, a half-finished forgotten genealogy. Cultural stories are told with ephemera. With a million scraps of paper, every city, every family, every time tells its story. To review these scraps is to read the microscopic diary of what it was like for a person to live a life. As an artist I am fascinated with ephemera and the ways in which so many bits of public information form a mosaic to tell a private story. Cities write a collaborative history book on their walls with every graffito, every kiosk and notice board. This fascination forms the basis of my current practice. My goal is to make a collaborative book for the city of the Babel Conference 2015.

Pooling our ephemera to refashion pages leads to a fascinating and unique book. In collaboration a voice emerges, entirely new, that was never heard before and may never be heard again, made by of a group of individuals serendipitously gathered. It is one of the thousand possible voices that Babel could have imagined. The portable library is a book cart with space and materials to create and add pages. The shelves will be empty, and that is where you come in. You are invited to play with paper and contribute to the Magnum Opus. The cart has work space, glue, scissors, paper, and pages, and a shelf for the book in progress, asking for pages. Do you have an old journal, school notebook, textbook, phone directory, a child’s book, a nautical map, a star chart, a box of photos? Candy wrappers, canceled postcards, unsent letters, takeout menus, margin doodles, newspapers in any language, stamps, tickets, museum passes, sheet music or dance step charts from the class you took? All can be a page for the history in progress of Babel 2015.

Your page is yours. Describe the anatomy of a new insect or your old birthday wish. One rule: if you take some to use, leave some for others, and vice versa. Take ten minutes or an hour. Approach, tear, glue and recombine, knowing you are transforming, not just destroying. In leaving materials, you consent to their transformation. This is how we write a book not one of us could have written. The book has no copyright and no one author. As a creative commons it is donated to the Babel archive. The cart is available for the duration of the conference. There will be a 60-minute session to discuss the process and why we were drawn to add pages. The session will be videorecorded for archival and research purposes. All are invited to make and add pages, and I would love at least 15 confirmed participants for the book and for the conference session and discussion.

Off the Books, Off the Property:  The Liminal Spaces of Protest Libraries

Organizer: Sherrin Frances (Saginaw Valley State University)

Queries to:

From the fires at the Library of Alexandria to the 2015 destruction by ISIS of a library in Mosul, Iraq, collectors of books often find themselves at the center of conflict, and libraries themselves become the targets of violence and vandalism. However, within the temporary space of a “protest library,” book collections are not unexpectedly attacked by external forces. Rather, they emerge from within the center of political conflict, and they are necessarily included in acts of aggression and displacement. While their specifics vary, these library spaces all have in common confrontation with security forces and the imminent threat of eviction from their various contested spaces. They are sometimes also referred to as encampment-, occupation-, pop-up-, squat-, or street-libraries, and recent examples include:

  • BibloSol from within the 15-M Acampada Sol in Madrid
  • People’s Library from within Occupy Wall Street in New York, US.
  • Biblioteca Popular Victor Martinez inspired by Occupy Oakland in California, US.
  • Taksim Gezi Park Library from within the Turkish Spring in Istanbul.
  • Mong Kok Library from within the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong.
  • Maidan Library from within the Euromaidan in Kiev, Ukraine.

Protest library spaces such as these offer a point of contrast, a way to move off the books, regarding institutional and public libraries. They present an opportunity to think through what “library” should mean in an age of electronic publishing and “maker-space,” privatization of public spaces, severe budget cuts and resource shortages, and urban gentrification.  Additionally, protest libraries embody spaces of radical democracy and push us to better understand Foucault’s heterotopia, Soja’s spatial justice, Agamben’s biopolitics, and Hardt’s love.

For this un-session, we seek an interdisciplinary group of participants to engage in discussion about protest libraries. We ask participants to prepare a five- to ten-minute provocation, rumination, observation, or reflection which culminates with a discussion question for the group. Questions might revolve around: the necessary physicality of protest libraries; the role that outdoor space and gardens/parks play; the relationship between libraries and violence; what it means to build community within an illegal space; the roles of librarians and curators (or more broadly, systems of power and authority) in such spaces; the effects of urban planning and/or economic policy on community space development; how we should radically re-envision today’s library spaces; and so on.

Additionally, we hope this un-session will happen within a BABEL pop-up library, and to create this space, we seek the following:

  1. If you have participated in or visited a protest library, we invite you to submit your digital artifacts from this experience: photographs, videos, catalogs/lists of books, photos of actual books or other realia you saved, tweet or email exchanges, short reflective statements, etc.
  2. We also invite contributions of physical books or found objects (milk crates, boxes, tarps, etc) with which to create our space. Though this obviously won’t be a proper protest library (and, to be honest, we do not seek eviction by conference security), we would like to ensconce our un-session discussion within a collection of random, donated books which afterward will be donated to a Toronto community space (TBD).

Intratextual Entanglements: A Collective Text, Artbook, and Philosophy Project

Organizer: Sarah E. Truman

Queries to:

Intratextual Entanglements is a collaborative text/art book/philosophy “research-creation” project I co-ordinated between 25 artists and theorists in 2014-2015 (Manning and Massumi, Thought in the Act). The ‘base text’ of the project was assembled from two of Friedrich Nietzsche’s books: Ecce Homo, and The Joyful Wisdom (The Gay Science). The text was sent to each of the participants to entangle with using whichever manner, form, or ‘material’ they chose. The entangled texts were then sent on to other participants for further artistic and marginal entanglements. The aim of my project was to explore, from a new materialist perspective, how diffractive and material readings/writings not only affect a text’s meaning but produce new meanings and a new ‘text’ with each encounter: as Karen Barad (Meeting the Universe Halfway) says, “entangled practices are productive … different intra-actions produce different phenomena.” I also explore how ‘marginalia’ (Jackson, 2005) and artistic interventions with a base text and other readers/writers/materials can be considered forms of “critical public pedagogy” (Burdick, Sanlin & O’Malley,Problematizing Public Pedagogy).

The texts began as words printed on pieces of paper, yet many of them have transformed into different media: for example one is now in the form of an analogue clock that takes Polaroid photographs; several are sound files; others are digital images; while others returned in knitted, felted, and burned forms. For the BABEL Conference I propose to display the 25 ‘entangled’ texts, discuss the theoretical framework of my project, and ask fellow participants to further engage with the ‘texts.’

Mash Notes

Co-Curators: Helen J. Burgess (North Carolina State University) + Craig Saper (University of Maryland, Baltimore)

Queries to:

We have long participated in signed or anonymous declarations of love and desire. Even in our neoliberal institutions, peculiarly bloodless forms remain: the corporate pitch meeting, the grant proposal warped by our understanding of what the other (funding agencies) “wants.” Screw that. As Roland Barthes declares, “What love lays bare in me is energy.” This un-session seeks participants to enter into the lover’s discourse in electric form. Have you built an online thing you want to share, and can’t find a home for it? Want to create a twitter performance? Want to put mash notes on a wall with no hope (or hope) of a response? Have you missed your connection? Have you been waiting to make a genre-bending book/series proposal? This will be an online/offline un-session conducted in a physical installation space. Dramatic pieces, online conference-length twitter performances, installation works, posters, and other displays of love sought.

The Rules of History: A Board Games Party

Co-Organizers: Anna Wilson ( + Chris Piuma (

Queries to:

The idea: Board games are rising in popularity in North America, and since the opening of Snakes & Lattes in Toronto several years ago (and several other since then), board game cafes have become a flourishing tradition in Toronto. Some board games use historical settings, and their game mechanics explore some aspect of history, from the formation of the Italian vernacular to monastic agriculture. Board games offer the possibility of an “off the books” approach to history that emerges both from the opportunity to imagine oneself as a historical actor but also from attention to the implications and interactions of the rules of the game (and the world/social space that the game’s rules create). Board games are also, however, social and convivial affairs. This event will provide a non-alcohol-based arena for discussion and relaxation. Several historical board games—and ‘experts’ in each of those games—will be provided for attendees to play or observe. Some board game experience is encouraged but not necessary. While this is primarily a social event, it is also being organized in order to start a conversation about board games as a historical hermeneutic. We will gauge the interest among attendees about continuing this conversation further, perhaps as a panel, either at the next BABEL conference, or at another large conference, such as the annual Kalamazoo Congress. Those interested in playing with us should reserve a spot in advance, as we can accommodate approximately 60 persons.


BABEL@UToronto 2015 Programming Committee: Suzanne Conklin Akbari (University of Toronto), Arthur Bahr (M.I.T.), Roland Betancourt (University of California, Irvine), Liza Blake (University of Toronto), Jen Boyle (Coastal Carolina University), Maura Coughlin (Bryant University), Lowell Duckert (West Virginia University), Irina Dumitrescu (Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn), Alexandra Gillespie (University of Toronto), Rick Godden (Tulane University), Andrew Griffin (University of California, Santa Barbara), David Hadbawnik (University at Buffalo, SUNY), Mary Kate Hurley (Ohio University), Eileen A. Joy (BABEL Working Group), Dorothy Kim (Vassar College), J. Allan Mitchell (University of Victoria), Susan Nakley (St. Joseph’s College, NY), Julie Orlemanski (University of Chicago), Michael O’Rourke (Independent Colleges, Dublin), Chris Piuma (University of Toronto), Daniel C. Remein (University of Massachusetts, Boston), Arthur J. Russell (Arizona State University), Myra Seaman (College of Charleston), Angela Bennett Segler (New York University), Sean Smith (Dept. of Biological Flow, Toronto), Karl Tobias Steel (Brooklyn College), Cord Whitaker (Wellesley College), Maggie M. Williams (William Paterson University), and Laura Yoder (New York University)

BABEL Future(s) Steering Committee: Suzanne Conklin Akbari (University of Toronto), Liza Blake (University of Toronto), Sakina Bryant (Sonoma State University), Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (George Washington University), Lara Farina (West Virginia University), Jonathan Hsy (George Washington University), Asa Simon Mittman (California State University, Chico), Julie Orlemanski (University of Chicago), Chris Piuma (University of Toronto), Angela Bennett Segler (New York University), Karl Steel (Brooklyn College, CUNY), and Maggie M. Williams (William Paterson University)

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