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Transformation, UVA Department of English Graduate Conference

Conference schedule, registration information, and more available here.

Kandice Chuh (CUNY)
“The Humanities as a Racial (Trans)Formation”

Jahan Ramazani (UVA)
“Poetry, (Un)Translatability, and World Literature”

Digital Humanities Masterclass:
Brad Pasanek (UVA) and Brandon Walsh (UVA Library’s Scholars’ Lab)

Did you know that caterpillars must transform into butterflies to reproduce? These fine creatures exemplify how life depends on the ability to transform: to recreate, reshape, and reimagine what we can become. For humans, a site that enables this process is literature. After all, when each generation finds that the aesthetic forms, political ideologies, or social structures of their present are no longer tenable, they turn towards literature to reinvent ways of seeing, expressing, thinking, and feeling. What, then, has literature made possible? How have texts inspired change? How can literary study transform the way we conceptualize ourselves, and our worlds?

The University of Virginia is a pivotal location for such discussions. Manifestations of white supremacy in our institution’s history, past and present, remind us of the need to explore our relationship to transformation as we continue to live, work, and study on these grounds. We invite graduate student proposals for presentations that explore transformations in all time periods and from all fields. Possible paper topics may include but are not limited to:

  • What is transformation? What are its possibilities and limitations? How might it differ from plain old ‘change’?
  • How do art and literature depict aesthetic, cultural, global, national, institutional, political, psychological, or social transformations?
  • How do hybrid aesthetic forms like prose-poetry transform—or trans-verse— conventional genre boundaries? How might these hybrid forms accommodate new racial, ethnic, sexual, and gender identities?
  • How do adaptations, remediations, and postcolonial reinventions transform canonical texts?
  • How do utopian or dystopian narratives transform our understanding of the past, and reimagine our present and future?
  • How are our relationship to texts and (local) contexts reflected by the global mobility of people across national borders? Are refugee poetics transformational of national literatures, for example?
  • Is the trans in transgender the same as the trans in transformation? 
  • How does nature inspire aesthetic or philosophical transformations? Conversely, how do artistic artifacts model or reimagine nature and the natural sciences? Where do we imagine the boundary between humanity and nature, and how might we transcend it?
  • Does a text transform when translated into another language? How does the world look different in another language, and what is the value of articulating these views?
  • How do podcasts, Instagram poetry, and Twitter stories transform our understanding of what constitutes art and literature? How do digital technologies also transform textual production and interpretation?
  • What does the current state of higher education mean for the humanities? Should our professions try to change the university, or change with it?

Please submit abstracts of 250-300 words to and relevant biographical information and institutional affiliation by January 10, 2020. Presentations should be no longer than 15 minutes. There is no fee to attend, and we try our best to house participants with departmental hosts to alleviate expenses.

To learn more, visit or our Twitter (@UVAGradCon).

October 2, 2020 to October 4, 2020 11:00 am to 6:00 pm

University of Virginia

Event type: Conference