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Violence and Literary Form

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Organizer: Lily Gurton-Wachter

Co-Organizer: Andrea Haslanger

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This seminar investigates how literary form engages with and responds to violence, and how violence shapes literary form. We conceive of violence broadly, and we encourage papers that examine its lasting impact in and on form, particularly in relation to enslavement, colonialism, and warfare. How do these instances of violence take shape and persist long after their immediate occurrence? What role does literary form play in rendering experiences of mass suffering and casualty, and how does it influence public attitudes, whether through the modification or perpetuation of indifference? What does it mean to read for the form of the aftermath?

We welcome papers focusing on a range of languages, genres, literary traditions, and historical periods that approach questions of form and violence in new ways. Papers might consider how form adjusts or ruptures in the face of suffering, or conversely, how it holds steady. They might explore how instances of violence are exposed or obscured in particular works or by particular literary forms. How, for example, does prosody relate to physical constraint, to the time of labor, or to what is utterable? What role does scale or plot or narrative voice have in representing the pain, shame, or rage that often accompanies violence? How does repetition underscore or undermine the continuing effects of violence? Papers might also investigate how particular literary histories or genres submerge, unearth, or simply register trauma; they might reflect on how recent discussions of form can be expanded by an attention to violence, and vice versa. 

We invite 300-word abstracts on these or related topics. Please direct any questions to the seminar organizers, Lily Gurton-Wachter ( and Andrea Haslanger (


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