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Mobilities of Reading, Writing, and Thinking—Reading, Thinking, and Writing of Mobilities

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Organizer: Atsuko Sakaki

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Are the humans who read, contemplate, and write works of literature necessarily immobile? Do we need to sit still in order to process, design, and compose literary texts? Both going outdoors to read and reading while on public transportation have long been established practices, and many authors are known to take their pens, inkpots, and even desks outside to record their thoughts. We know of many writers who think and even compose while taking a walk. Mobilities of reading/writing are particularly noticeable in the age of digital technology, when we can take e-books and digital writing devices anywhere we go, without having to consider the weight and bulk of printed books, pads of blank paper, portable typewriters, and other traditional reading/writing essentials.


How do  literary texts—which can be written or read while seated on public transportation, and thought about or listened to in audio form while driving, walking, running, or pedaling a stationary bike—cope with the physical acts of characters in the storyworld? What is happening, neurologically, when one writes of that which may seem existentially so distant from the act of writing: physical exercise (walking, running, jumping, swimming, diving, rowing, skating, skiing, climbing, playing ball games, etc.), manual creative actions (e.g., brushwork, camera work, playing musical instruments), household activities (cooking, sewing, washing, cleaning, caregiving, gardening, walking a dog), or work activities (using tools, delivering shipments, providing manual services)? How might the speed, pace, and rhythm of narrating and/or speaking be coordinated with actually carrying out these actions? How are the particular focus, orientation, and trajectory of such physical actions captured in poetry or prose, and how do they evolve in literary discourse? How do they affect the poem or the narrative, beyond being its subject matter or a part of the settings represented in text? How do evocations of physical actions change the way the text is formed through focalization and enunciation? How are physical activities that unfold in three dimensions translated into handwritten, printed, or digitized texts on flat surfaces? How do textual representations of corporeality change the poetics or the grammar of a narrative?


This seminar seeks to present papers that are oriented toward both close and distant readings of discourse-conscious writings. Papers with clearly drawn conceptual frameworks that are based in theories of non-literary origin (e.g., mobility studies, critical phenomenology, neuroscience) are welcome, as are papers that give intense consideration to the rhetoric formulated and developed in literary conventions.

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