Call for Papers
Formalism and its Discontents, an Interdisciplinary Conference
Center for Cultural Analysis, Rutgers University
Deadline: December 21, 2016
February 23-24, 2017
Alexander Library, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ

Keynote Speakers: Caroline Levine (English, Cornell University) and Seth Brodsky (Music, University of Chicago)

Jocelyn Rodal (jocelyn.rodal -at-
Daniel Villegas Velez (daniel.villegas -at-

This interdisciplinary conference proposes to consider approaches to form that emphasize its materiality, affective dimensions, and political effectivity, as well as considerations of new directions for the humanities in which these notions of form might be central. Questions to be contemplated include: Do approaches such as affect theory and surface reading imbricate art, music, and literature with the social and political realm, or do they divide them from it? Is there a cohesive new formalism, and what distinguishes that new formalism from previous formalisms? How might attention to form shift our understanding of the relationship between materiality and abstraction? Where does an attention to surface leave the position of art vis-à-vis world?

We invite paper proposals from across the humanities that consider, use, or critique:

•   Form and formalism, as well as new formalism, formalisticism, and post-formalism
•   The materiality of sound and art objects
•   Affect theory, and the feeling of form
•   Surface reading, and theories of the literal, the obvious, or the apparent
•   Digital methods of interpretation, and modes of theorizing the digital humanities
•   Formlessness, noise, and excess
•   The historicity of form

Please submit abstracts of under 250 words as .pdf attachments prepared for anonymous review before December 21, 2016 to formalism.conference -at-


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