About the Event

American Work

A Literature Symposium for Postgraduates and Early Career Academics

18 May 2013 – Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford

A 1986 mural from artist Kari Sandhaas depicting labour history in Bloomington, Illinois.

A 1986 mural from artist Kari Sandhaas depicting labour history in Bloomington, Illinois.

Bartleby! quick, I am waiting.”

I heard a slow scrape of his chair legs on the uncarpeted floor, and soon he appeared standing at the entrance of his hermitage.

—Herman Melville

Plenary speakers:
Dr. Kasia Boddy (University of Cambridge) and Dr. Peter Riley (University of Oxford)

In our current period of enduring, global economic crisis, the shape, meaning, and value of work has never been more contested. As protestors continue to Occupy! and an entire generation of young people struggle to find work, new opportunities for productive and radical critical reflection present themselves. Seeking to build on the momentum of scholarship by Bryony Randall, Margaret Ronda, and Bruce Robbins – as well as the recent special edition of PMLA on work – we invite you to attend ‘American Work’, to be held at the Rothermere American Institute at the University of Oxford in May.

Conceptions of labour are becoming increasingly integral to our understanding of literary texts, and especially to our delineations of temporality, gender, authorship, nationhood, and identity within American culture. This symposium will investigate how work shapes literary texts, and how literary texts, in turn, might shape our understandings of work – particularly the work that we do: as researchers, as teachers, and as students of American culture.

Panel Papers and discussions will explore, but are not limited to, the following topics:

* Work ideologies, Work vs. Labour, Workers in Literature
* Slavery, Indentured Labour, Globalisation
* Work and the Everyday, Work and Temporality, Work Place/Space
* Resistance, Revolution, The Occupy Movement
* Work and Gender, Work and Identity, Vocation
* The Work of Writing, Writing Practices, Intellectual vs. Manual labour
* (Im)migrant Labour, Itinerant Labour, Oceanic Labour
* Academic Work, The Work of Reading/Reading Practices, the Work of Translation
* Retirement, Unemployment, Disability
* Government vs. Private Sponsorship, Funding, Self-Funding, Patronage
* Sex Work, Illegal work, Unpaid Work
* Literature and the Economy, Political Economy, New Economic Criticism
* Post-Marxist, Postmodern, and Digital Work
* Labour and Nationhood
* Idleness, Decadence, Apocalypse

Places are limited and free registration is now open: please email americanworksymposium@gmail.com to register.

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