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Lauren Berlant & Lee Edelman, 2017 Keynote Speakers

Shenandoah University is very pleased to announce that Lee Edelman and Lauren Berlant will be giving the keynote talk at the 2017 Virginia Humanities Conference, focusing on their recent book from Duke University Press, Sex, or the Unbearable (2013). From the Duke UP website,

Sex, or the Unbearable is a dialogue between Lauren Berlant and Lee Edelman, two of our leading theorists of sexuality, politics, and culture. In juxtaposing sex and the unbearable they don’t propose that sex is unbearable, only that it unleashes unbearable contradictions that we nonetheless struggle to bear. In Berlant and Edelman’s exchange, those terms invoke disturbances produced in encounters with others, ourselves, and the world, disturbances that tap into threats induced by fears of loss or rupture as well as by our hopes for repair.Through virtuoso interpretations of works of cinema, photography, critical theory, and literature, including Lydia Davis’s story “Break It Down” (reprinted in full here), Berlant and Edelman explore what it means to live with negativity, with those divisions that may be irreparable. Together, they consider how such negativity affects politics, theory, and intimately felt encounters. But where their critical approaches differ, neither hesitates to voice disagreement. Their very discussion—punctuated with moments of frustration, misconstruction, anxiety, aggression, recognition, exhilaration, and inspiration—enacts both the difficulty and the potential of encounter, the subject of this unusual exchange between two eminent critics and close friends.

About The Author(s)

Lauren Berlant is George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor of English at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Cruel Optimism, The Female Complaint, and The Queen of America Goes to Washington City, all also published by Duke University Press.

Lee Edelman is Fletcher Professor of English Literature at Tufts University. He is the author of L’impossible Homosexuel; No Future, also published by Duke University Press; and Homographesis.

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2017 Conference Hosted by Shenandoah University

“The Unbearable Humanities”
Virginia Humanities Conference (April 7-8, 2017)
Shenandoah UniversityDownload the 2017 CFP

The 2017 Virginia Humanities Conference at Shenandoah University invites proposals for papers, panel sessions, and performances that investigate any aspect of unbearableness within the humanities. This conference seeks to explore the concept of the unbearable—that which cannot be endured or tolerated—with scholars, activists, and students from a wide variety of disciplines and institutions. VHC 2017 will examine how and what kinds of knowledge the humanities produce that existing structures cannot bear; how and why approaches to this unbearableness that are grounded in the humanities are met with resistance; and, finally, how we in the humanities value, make use of, and respond to contemporary, and sometimes unbearable, issues.

Possible interdisciplinary themes include but are not limited to the following:

Unbearable People: How do humanities studies challenge conversations about what it means to be human?

  • The unbearable in mass media, social media, and/or popular culture
  • Celebrity and fan culture
  • Refugees, migrants, and the undocumented
  • Cyborgs, werewolves, zombies, superheroes, and/or the transhuman

Unbearable Ambiguity: How does ambiguity serve as a structuring mechanism of social life?

  • Ambiguous identities (racial, linguistic, gender, etc.)
  • In-between spaces
  • Living with ambiguity
  • Teaching the ambiguous

Unbearable Futures: How do humanities studies trouble the assumption of a happy future?

  • Social activism and/or social movements
  • Eco-cultural studies
  • Future role of the humanities and the arts
  • Future of the academy and/or free speech on college campuses

Please submit 250-word abstracts to, or using this online form. Individual, panel, and roundtable proposals are welcome. Undergraduate students are invited to present their research via interactive poster sessions or individual papers with the support of a faculty member. Deadline for submission is January 15, 2017. Conference will be held April 7-8, 2017, on Shenandoah University’s main campus in Winchester, VA.

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