“Forever”: University of Toronto Graduate Conference

English Graduate Conference at University of Toronto / May 15-16 2014

Best friends forever; been that way forever; nothing lasts forever; forever young. ‘Forever’ is ubiquitous in our cultural imagination. It finds its way into statements of intimacy and commitment, as well as statements of loss; it seems applicable both to the spiritual and the mundane; likewise to the very long and the ephemeral. ‘Forever’ comes up in discourses of religion, in manuscript and book history, and in medieval and early modern conceptions of time. In more contemporary developments we find forever implied in ideas of the ‘end of history’ or of the supposedly interminable nature of global capitalism, in ideas of life sentences and bodily modification, in the ‘cruel optimism’ Lauren Berlant ties to contemporary life narratives and health regimes (to say nothing of the pessimism of ongoing ecological debates), and in the continued resonance of the canon debates in humanities programs.

Overlying many of these concerns is a broader concern we have with forever’s ubiquity today. We are daily faced with the idea that our actions produce permanent consequences. Is there something about the present moment that makes the appeal to (or the protest against) the idea of forever especially resonant? What, for instance, is forever’s relationship to history? Is forever always affectively coded? Are its implications thinkable; and if so, to what kinds of concepts do they lend themselves? How do ideas of being ‘forever young’ in Western culture intersect with conceptions of biopolitical control? Forever is commonplace in social vows of all sorts; are its terms socially neutral? How can we negotiate emerging queer and transgender theories that challenge the conjectural permanence of heteronormative reproductive time? Is the notion of forever gendered, racialized, or stratified? Does the concept of forever do to historiography what colonial discourse did/does to historical thinking? What kinds of temporalities do forever’s inclusion in our thinking lead us to adopt?

Subjects of interest might include:
 Anti-colonial, decolonizing, and postcolonial engagements
 Youth and aging
 Marriage, friendship, and other vows
 Memory, memorials, and monuments
 Long texts (novels, poetry, film)
 Conservation and conservatism
 Terminal and chronic disease
 Spatial or temporal notions of forever
 Nostalgia and diaspora
 Technology and data storage
 Endings and finality
 Queer and transgender time
 Forgiveness and forgetting

This conference is interdisciplinary: we welcome submissions from a variety of fields, as well as from those outside of academia. Send an abstract (of up to 250 words) for your 20-minute presentation to uoftgradcolloquium2014@gmail.com, with your name and institutional affiliation, if applicable.

Responses are due by March 1st, 2014.