The Age of Anxiety: Literary Studies in a Culture of Risk

Країна: Канада

Місто: Ottawa

Тези до: 15.12.2018

Дати: 08.03.19 — 10.03.19

Е-мейл Оргкомітету:

Організатори: Department of English Twelfth Graduate Student Conference, University of Ottawa


“We would rather be ruined than changed” - W.H. Auden, “The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue”

Whether understood as a personal sense of apprehension and uncertainty, or as a broader social affect conditioned by various cultural and political parameters, anxiety has expanded beyond its psychological and psychiatric associations and has emerged as a familiar idiom in cultural investigation. In this digital age of constant media engagement, we are inundated with news of threats from all directions. The risks of ecological degradation, terrorism, crime, pandemic outbreaks, war, and political unrest are increasingly visible, but they are not new. Rather, throughout history, cultures have experienced events and threats that resulted in mass cultural anxiety.

Since Ulrich Beck’s seminal work, Risk Society (1992), sociological inquiry has connected ‘risk’ and ‘risk consciousness’ with discussions of anxiety. Social theorist Iain Wilkinson has argued that risk has created a language for anxiety as “the more we recognize ourselves to be ‘at risk’ the more vulnerable we become towards anxiety” (Anxiety In a Risk Society 5). This dialectic between anxiety, risk, and security, then, necessarily confronts sociological analyses with “cultural narrative” (5). From the recurring medieval narratives of cultural reformation, the idealization of the pastoral in the wake of industrialization, to the rise of contemporary post-apocalyptic fiction, fears of an uncertain future manifest themselves across literary history. This conference will consider how writers in different historical periods have used literary form to respond to various cultural anxieties and the ways literary texts across time and space have both recorded and shaped our perceptions of risk. We hope to explore how literary studies should respond to the ongoing sense of political crisis, to examine the ways that risk has impacted cultures across history, to explore how specific concerns configure themselves as subjects of widespread cultural anxiety, and to consider the place of literary studies in informing the ways that societies navigate these ongoing and recurring threats.  We welcome submissions from students, professors, and independent scholars in all disciplines. We also invite submissions for academic posters and creative writing. Possible topics include:


Mental & Physical Health

New Social Realities




Gender & Sexuality

Racial Identity & Anxiety


Poverty & Labour

Speculative Futures


Racism & The Police State


Political Unrest & Uprising


Culture in Crisis

War & Terrorism

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