CFP: Object Emotions

Submission deadline: July 15, 2013

Conference date(s):
October 4, 2013 - October 6, 2013

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Conference Venue:

University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, United States

Topic areas


Co-organizers: Padma Maitland (UCB Architecture, SSEAS); Christopher P. Miller (UCB English); Marta Figlerowicz (Harvard Society of Fellows)

When and why do we attribute emotions to inanimate objects? What does it mean to objectify emotions—and is it possible to not reify them when we treat them as objects of scholarly inquiry? What does it mean to think of human bodies as emotionally charged material objects, and how do bodies relate to other objects—such as buildings or works of literature—that we often treat as also charged with feeling?

“Object Emotions” aims to set in conversation several very recent developments in criticism that include thing theory, affect theory, and the history of emotions. We would like to foster an interdisciplinary dialogue among scholars who study the relationship ofemotions to objects in architecture, literature, art, and area studies as well as those who focus on how emotions themselves have become topics of inquiry. This conference is inspired by the heightened attention that many members of various disciplines have recently begun to pay to emotions as new points of entry into history, literature, art, architecture, and the social sciences. It is also inspired by the many-sided confusions and doubts that this interest in emotions has sparked across these disciplines. During the conference we would like to ask how we can make sense of emotionally charged objects, or of feelings that inspire us to create things, without oversimplifying or idealizing such connections.

On the one hand, we hope that this conference will help to bring out the shared doubts within these disciplines about staid notions of objects as ‘objective’ and emotions as ‘subjective’ entities—and about our ability to set firm boundaries between the objects we attend to and the emotions we attach to them. On the other hand, we would like to highlight and explore divergences among the ways feelings and things are related to each other in each of these disciplines: to think about the particular challenges of describingemotions in relation to buildings as opposed to poems, in relation to statues as opposed to landscapes. We hope that comparisons between how emotions and objects are defined in each of these fields will help sharpen participants’ current critical lenses, and also help them appreciate what is local or field-specific about their particular approach to these questions.

The conference will take place at UC Berkeley on October 4th and 5th. Participants will include both graduate students and faculty members. We welcome papers that address any of the questions described above, or related ones, with reference to the bodies of theory shared across these disciplines or to individual works of literature, art, or architecture. 

Please submit 250-word abstracts to Padma Maitland at [email protected] by July 15, 2013.   

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