The Rutgers Program in Comparative Literature Graduate Student Conference: (de)composition

Keynotes: Prof. Ana María Ochoa, Tulane University and Prof. Karen Redrobe, University of Pennsylvania

March 3, 2023

Call for Papers: The dilemma of Comparative Literature to imagine a positive, cosmopolitan collective has invited reflections on alternate ways of forging connectivity, through closer attention to materiality, embodiment, and the precarity of human and non-human life. This leads us to consider not only production, circulation, and consumption, but also the unproductive, the remains, and the disintegrated. We encounter the process of decomposition in many ways, from entanglement with fossil fuel and waste, to the worms and bacteria that enliven the soil, to texts and sounds that are made and unmade. (De)composition implies both a dissolution and the potential for other forms to emerge. The critical examination of (de)composition reflects on the intersection between subject and object, material and immaterial, nature and culture, voice and text, representation and the unrepresentable. It harbors the possibility to ground a different relationality in response to the crises and polarizations of the contemporary era. How does (de)composition challenge literary studies to engage differently with the material and symbolic assemblages that we compare and critique? Can (de)composition unearth configurations of text and sound, genre, and style? What transformations and mediations does it gesture towards? How does a critical engagement with (de)composition affect our current notions of energy and sustainability in the Anthropocene? How does (de)composition give us better insight into the connection between human history and alternate timescales? What feelings and affects move through us when confronted with the process of (de)composition?


Possible lines of investigation:

  • Mutable and unstable texts
  • Fragments, archives, ruins
  • Voice, silence/noise, soundscapes
  • Sensation, technologies, mediation
  • Decadence and decline
  • Trauma and memory
  • Negativity, abjection, disidentification
  • Post-industrial land and legacy
  • Disasters and resilience
  • Resistance and care
  • Post-colonial remains, decolonial relationalities
  • Agency and animacy
  • Bodies, vulnerability, disability


The conference will be held in person on March 3, 2023 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Participants are expected to submit a full paper after acceptance for in-depth discussion. If interested, please send an abstract with working title (up to 300 words) and bio (up to 100 words) to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by DECEMBER 9, 2022. Selected participants will be notified of their acceptance by January 6, 2023 and should submit the full paper by February 10.

Papers will be circulated in advance among all the participants and will be discussed with students, faculty, and keynote speakers. Attendees are expected to read their fellow panelists’ papers before the conference.

This conference is organized by Milan Reynolds (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and Xingming Wang (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), with the support of the Rutgers Program in Comparative Literature. Please contact them if you have any questions!