2 September 2010


Inventions of the Text is a fortnightly staff-student forum run by postgraduate students from the Department of English Studies at Durham University. It is an opportunity for postgraduate students and staff to present their research in the form of a 20-minute paper, and to contribute to lively discussion on key issues raised.

How to contribute
Please send an email indicating your interest, together with an abstract of 100-200 words to

"The Uses of Literature"
Our theme for this year’s series is “The Uses of Literature”. Literature and literary study is being forced to justify itself as never before. New higher education funding proposals have brought fears about the effects of socio-economic impact assessment on research in the arts and humanities. Traditional claims for literature as “the best that has been thought or said” have been replaced by a more sceptical attitude about literature’s social and cultural power – its role can now only be provisional. Literary critics and theorists are also in the firing line. The academic Left, it has been argued, is “rotten with theory”. Ever-suspicious, is has been criticised for finding its own gloomy diagnosis in every text – often at the expense of the text itself. Literature as a form of knowledge has apparently been outstripped by the natural and social sciences. What’s more, the future of the book itself is uncertain, with digital media threatening to usurp its old print counterpart.

Inventions of the Text hopes to make a challenging and timely intervention in these debates. We invite papers that reflect on the forms and functions of literature and literary study in its broadest sense. We encourage those that examine the role of literature in its social, cultural and economic contexts and also those that challenge this sense of “crisis”. Should literature have to justify itself at all? Does this emphasis on use value of literature short-change the vital and varied roles of literature in culture?

This year, Inventions of the Text invites you to engage with fundamental questions of why we do what we do.

Topics include, but are by no means limited to:

The novel in culture
Literary translation & possibilities for a global literature
The novel & the political
Realism & experimentation
Genre mixing & hybrid forms
The novel form in the digital age
New developments in narratology

Poetry, creation & value
Poetic knowledge: poetry vs. theory/philosophy
Publishing poetry: the small press & the "little magazine"
Poetry & everyday life
Poetry & the academy

Literature as literary criticism
Cognition vs. affect
Ideologies of reading
Historicism & cultural memory studies

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