Saturday, August 15, 2009



A one-day conference co-organized by
the Bristol Institute of Greece, Rome and the Classical Tradition
the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto

University of Bristol, 10 July 2010

Keynote Speaker: Professor Carolyn Dinshaw, NYU


"In reading Cicero's letters I felt charmed and offended in equal
measure. Indeed, beside myself, in a fit of anger I wrote to him
as if he were a friend and contemporary of mine, forgetting, as
it were, the gap of time, with a familiarity appropriate to my
intimate acquaintance with his thought; and I pointed out those
things he had written that had offended me." (Petrarch, Rerum
Familiarum Liber I.1.42)

Love, desire, fannish obsession and emotional identification as
modes of engaging with texts, characters and authors are often
framed as illegitimate and transgressive: excessive, subjective,
lacking in scholarly rigour. Yet such modes of relating to texts
and pasts persist, across widely different historical periods and
cultural contexts. Many classical and medieval authors recount
embodied and highly emotional encounters with religious,
fictional or historical characters, while modern and postmodern
practices of reception and reading - from high art to the
subcultural practices of media fandom - are characterized by
desire in all its ambivalent complexity. Theories of readership
and reception, however, sometimes seem unable to move beyond an
antagonistic model: cultural studies sees resistant audiences
struggling to gain control of or to overwrite an ideologically
loaded text, while literary models of reception have young poets
fighting to assert their poetic autonomy vis-a-vis the paternal
authority of their literary ancestors.

This conference aims, by contrast, to begin to elaborate a theory
of the erotics of reception. It will bring together scholars
working in and across various disciplines to share research into
reading, writing and viewing practices characterized by love,
identification, and desire: we hope that it will lead to the
establishment of an international research network and the
formulation of some long-term research projects. In order to
facilitate discussion at the conference, we will ask participants
to circulate full papers (around 5,000 words) in May 2010.

We now invite abstracts of 300 words, to be submitted by email by
30 November 2009. Abstracts will be assessed on the basis of
their theoretical and interdisciplinary interest. We particularly
welcome contributions from scholars working on literary, visual
and performance texts in the fields of: history, reception
studies, mediaeval studies, fan studies, cultural studies,
theology, and literary/critical theory.

Some ideas which might be addressed include, but are not limited

* Writing oneself into the text: self-insertion and empathetic
* Historical desire: does the historian desire the past?
* Hermeneutics and erotics
* Pleasures of the text, pleasures of the body: (how) are
embodied responses to the text gendered?
* Anachronistic reading: does desire disturb chronology?
* Erotics and/or eristics: love-hate relationships with texts

This conference is part of the 'Thinking Reciprocity' series and
will follow directly from the conference 'Reception and the Gift
of Beauty' (Bristol, 8-9 July 2010). Reduced fees will be offered
to people attending both conferences.
If you have any queries, or to submit an abstract, please contact
one of the conference organizers:

Dr Ika Willis (Ika.Willis [at]
Anna Wilson (anna.wilson [at]


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