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A Conference: Any Way, Shape, or Form (Sponsored by Reorientations)

Oct 18

A Conference: Any Way, Shape, or Form

October 16-18, 2014

University of Michigan

Proposal Deadline: Sunday, April 13, 2014


Conference, noun

a)     a place for scholars to make connections and exchange ideas

b)     a glimmer of jet-setting glamour in an otherwise modest existence

c)      an extended opportunity to entertain the dark thought that the death of the humanities might well serve as a mercy killing

This University of Michigan symposium will explore the possibilities that emerge when the humanities conference as a genre is approached as a space for experimentation. We intend to try new things, but to do so with existing resources—with the colleagues and collections we already have around us. We aim to think more critically about current and alternative genres for scholarly work, spurring new lines of thought and conversation within the university community.

Panels at this symposium will borrow inspiration from sources such as museum curation, game-playing, digital cultures, and the creative arts. Additionally, they will be organized around structure and methodology rather than subject matter. We welcome individual presentations from any discipline, but we will be assembling panels that produce transnational and/or interdisciplinary dialogues. 

We welcome individual submissions to the following panels as well as proposals for other panels in the spirit of the symposium. Undergraduate work is also welcome, so please forward this information to any students you feel may be interested. Unless otherwise specified below, please direct proposals to Alice Tsay (atsay@umich.edu) and Pamela Wolpert (pwolpert@umich.edu) by Sunday, April 13, 2014 and specify the panel to which you are applying. Informal inquiries are welcome.


Proposed Panels

Really Close Readings

How have the processes and products of close reading changed since the heyday of New Critical practice? What does it look like to spend twenty minutes drawing out the nuances of just a single sentence? To apply to this panel, please submit a proposal that contains the textual excerpt you will be analyzing and an abstract of 300 words describing your approach.

Scholarly Conversation in the Digital Parlor

Participants will use social media formats such as Flickr, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram to present an argument or stage a conversation on an academic topic. Alternatively, participants may stage a meta-conversation about the process and effects of changing a “traditional” argument’s form into a digital/social one. Please submit 300-word abstracts to Cass Adair at ccadair@umich.edu.   


Participants will presentations in which form in some way echoes content. Ex: a collaborative presentation on literary collaboration, short papers given in English authentic to the region or period, a poem on poetry, a multimodal or multimedia presentation comparing forms of communication, a purely visual argument about an artwork, and so on. To apply to this panel, please submit an abstract of 300 words.

Curating Conversations (in partnership with the Stephen S. Clark Library)

Participants will select two objects or items from the Clark maps collection in Hatcher Library, then give a 20-minute talk putting the two in conversation with one another. The talk will take place in the Clark Library so that audience members have an opportunity to see the items up close. To apply to this panel, please submit a 300-word proposal that specifies the objects you will discuss. Items can be found by specifying Clark Library materials in MIRLYN or through consultation with members of the map library staff.

Miniature Exhibits (in partnership with the University of Michigan Museum of Art)

Participants will curate small-scale exhibits of 5-10 items from the UMMA collections and provide item labels and an exhibit description. The collections will be on display in the UMMA study cases for the two weeks surrounding the symposium, and participants will be given the opportunity to give a short presentation (15-20 min) on their work.  To apply to this panel, please provide a list of your proposed items from the UMMA Collections along with an abstract of 300 words describing the exhibit.

Note: all items must be smaller than 42” tall x 28” wide x 10” deep and weigh less than 50 pounds.

Research Briefs

Participants will give a 5-minute “lightning talk” that summarizes the stakes of their current research for the university community. Talks should be aimed at a generalized audience. To apply to this panel, please submit an abstract of 50 words. 

Visual (First) Aid

Participants will present an otherwise “traditional” conference paper on any topic, but must use handouts, PowerPoint or other standard visual aids in an innovative way. To apply to this panel, please submit a 300-word abstract. 

Song and Dance

This exhibition- and performance-based panel will be composed of songs, poetry, and ekphrasis about primary source material. Submissions will be displayed or performed during the symposium reception.  This exhibition-based panel will have a later deadline of September 15, 2014, and applicants should submit examples of the entire work along with a 300-word description. 

Academic Satires

In the spirit of Frederick Crews’ The Pooh Perplex or David Lodge’s satires, writers are invited to submit parodies of established academic genres. Submissions that are accepted will be on display at the symposium reception and may be printed as a collection using the Espresso Book Machine. This exhibition-based panel will have a later deadline of September 15, 2014, and applicants should submit the entire work.


This conference is sponsored by the Reorientations Interdisciplinary Workshop, which seeks to rethink dominant historical doxa along global, transnational, and transpacific axes.

Start Time: 10/16/2014 - 10/18/2014   TBD
Location: To Be Determined
Website: http://www.umich.edu/~reorient
Contact: atsay@umich.edu
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