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Book Lovers

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Organizer: Angus Brown

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“Everyone wants to know more about love.” – bell hooks 

What do we talk about when we talk about books? For a long time, we haven’t talked about love. At least, not in a sustained and systematic way. Our private lives thrum with the complexities and pressures that love describe, our discipline doesn’t. Those who choose to study love make do with a range of critical outliers. Denis De Rougement’s Love in the Western World (1940), Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse (1978), Leslie Fiedler’s Love and Death in the American Novel (1960), All About Love (2000) by bell hooks, and Loving Literature (2015) by Deidre Shauna Lynch elaborate the world-making and world-breaking intensities of love. These books help us to hear the quieter thinking about love that hums in the background of gender studies, critical race studies, queer studies, affect studies, and the fields they intersect. More recently, scholars such as Rita Felski have turned their explicit attention to love; this seminar invites participants to do the same and to start finding out what critics talk about when we talk about love.  

This seminar seeks to open up a comparative series of inquiries that work across a range of media, timescales, cultures, and literatures. We will be taking a particular interest in how love and the book make up and break up our understanding of comparative literature. Prospective papers are welcome to work around and beyond the following series of questions: what does it mean to love a book? how does love work in literature and culture? Why might we be so quick to describe loving a book in conversation but not a conference? From the medium to the message to the massage, where does love happen in literature? When and why did book sellers and book cultures begin to cultivate the book lover as a consumer identity? How do love and touch connect to media and culture? How do love and reading overlap in the novel, in the book, on e-readers, digital platforms, and dating apps? How do crushes, marriages, affairs, and breakups contour the novel? Why do we love certain stories? What does love look like? How queer is love? In short, Book Lovers welcomes abstracts that touch on any aspect of love. 

Relevant topics might include but are not limited to: Sexuality; Affect; Gender; Touch; The Haptic; Eroticism; Material Culture; Race; Queer Studies; Book History; Book Culture; Technology; Digital Culture; Animal Studies.

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