Formalism and its Discontents, An Interdisciplinary Conference

February 23, 2017 – February 24, 2017 all-day
Center for Cultural Analysis, Rutgers
15 Seminary Pl
New Brunswick, NJ 08901

With keynote presentations by:

Caroline Levine
Professor of English and David and Kathleen Ryan Professor of Humanities
Cornell University
Author of Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network (Princeton University Press, 2015)

Seth Brodsky
Assistant Professor of Music and the Humanities
University of Chicago
Author of From 1989, or European Music and the Modernist Unconscious (University of California Press, forthcoming 2016)

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 and the social sciences 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 and the social sciences 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 Jocelyn Rodal and Daniel Villegas Vélez at:

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