The Ph.D. Program in History

at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York


CFP – “Abiding Cities, Remnant Sites” conference

Call for Papers
Abiding Cities, Remnant Sites
Keynote speaker: Elaine Scarry
“If you can blow whole places out of existence, you can blow whole places into it.” (E. Bowen)


The students of the Department of Comparative Literature and the Italian Specialization at the CUNY Graduate Center present the annual interdisciplinary conference entitled Abiding Cities, Remnant Sites to be held on November 13 and 14, 2014.

“Abiding cities” refers to the traces that remain not only physically but also in our imagination, especially when sites undergo transformation and disruption. Throughout history, geographic and metaphorical places have been a source of inspiration as well as lasting products of the artistic process. Real and imaginary settings, from New York and Rome to Helicon and the Land of Oz, have been built and recast by a variety of authors who have forged cities within our collective imaginary. Among them are writers and scientists, philosophers and cartographers, film directors and explorers: Plato, St. Augustine, Shakespeare, Marco Polo, Thomas More, Piranesi, Balzac, Borges, Woolf, Elsa Morante, Christa Wolf, Thomas Mann, Amitav Ghosh, Ben Okri, Vikram Chandra, Norman Bel Geddes, Federico Fellini, Woody Allen, Italo Calvino, and many others.
We invite papers from all disciplines focusing on works from any period that explore the idea of “abiding cities” in literature, philosophy, theory, visual arts, film, and social sciences. Some of the questions this conference seeks to answer include, but are not limited to:
● How does the city an author inhabits influence the creative process? Do writers have their own abiding cities?
● How can cities become texts in themselves? Are all cities writeable?
● How has the historical destruction of cities, whether by natural disaster or war, shaped thought? What do we make of what is left behind?
● How can cities represent the territory of cultural and individual memory? How are, for instance, monuments and public spaces implicated in this?
● How do physical and temporal distances alter cities?
● How does art create and reuse the myths of Athens, Rome, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Mexico City, and other ancient cities?
● Which cities have worked as models for political and ethical behaviors over time?
● In what ways, and to what effect, do we build new cities above the old? What happens to the cities underneath?
● How does the movement of horizontal exchange and vertical growth affect modern and postmodern conceptions of cities?
● How do specters of cities haunt literature and art?
● In what ways, or to what extent, are ancient cities transposed into modernity? How or do cities and other geographical locations endure (self-)translations?
● When do capitals wield their power as economic, social, cultural, and symbolic capital?
● How have cities affected individual consciousness and notions of the self? Do cities have the power to bestow and threaten the individual identity?
● What is the place of the private self in the res publica that the city represents? Does the city force a division of our public and private selves, or may the two to be joined somehow?
● A great many utopias, from Plato to Mario Chiattone, were urban. What is the urban utopia of today, and how is it reshaping the existent cities?
● In what ways has the city informed the ‘construction’ of the pastoral?
● In what ways are cities and multilingualism, or the coexistence of languages, related?
● How have certain cities, real or imagined, informed our ideas about cosmopolitanism and provincialism?
● How do cities serve as points of contact for sexual, racial, and political negotiations?
● How have universities and educational institutions generally affected cities throughout history and vice versa? How have our conceptions of the two informed or influenced each other?
Please email a 250 word abstract to by 20 September 2014, and include your Name, Affiliation, Paper Title and any technology requests.

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