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Relevant Across Cultures: Visions of Connectedness and World Citizenship in Modern Fantasy for Young Readers

University of Wrocław, 28-31 May, 2008

International Conference hosted by

Second Call for Papers

“We need a story, a myth that does what the traditional religious stories did: it must explain. It must satisfy our hunger for a why. Why does the world exist? Why are we here? […] It must provide some sort of framework for understanding why some things are good and others are bad. […] We need a myth, we need a story because it’s no good persuading people to commit themselves to an idea on the grounds that it’s reasonable”
–Philip Pullman, “The Republic of Heaven,” 665-666

Works of literature are distinctive to the specific culture which produced them and embody that culture’s place- and time-bound consciousness. However, many of the themes and topics in literature are relevant across cultures. The well-being of children, the importance of family, the need to foster human relationships, and the right for happiness are some among the many concerns central to most cultures. In the global reality of contemporary uni-media-verse, an increasing number of fantasy novels and films addressed to young audience cross cultures in their important themes. They explore what it means to grow up and get along in the modern world, provide glimpses into the cultures and traditions that make up the fabric of this world, and define human rights and responsibilities toward this world in its social, political, cultural and environmental dimensions.

Since its inception the Center for Children’s and Young Adult Fiction has had a strong interest in the way in which literature addressed to young audience, especially fantasy, can bring about empathy for and understanding of cultures and situations other than those we are familiar with. In our Relevant Across Cultures Conference we want to look at how novels, picture books and films of the last three decades are helping to bridge cultural, social and political gaps between different groups of people. We are particularly interested in the current mythopoesis toward connectedness and world citizenship, in new heroic and gender patterns which are beginning to fill the mythology gap, and in visions of viable value systems which promote intercultural dialogue, harmonious coexistence and environmental awareness.

Our key-note speaker will be Brian Attebery, American critic and scholar, author of The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature (1980), (1992), and Decoding Gender in Science Fiction (2002). His presentation on “Stories Linked to Stories: Fantasy as a Route to Myth,” will open what we hope will become an exciting debate on the place of fantasy literature and film in the shaping of transnational cultural referents of the global tomorrow. Our intention is to provide a forum for a wide range of scholarly presentations and workshops.

Suggested topics for proposals include, but are not limited to:

  • political and social holism in fantasy literature and film,
  • the exchange of various cultural forms across borders as a theme in fantasy,
  • fantasy as reflecting modern understanding of myth and the need for relevant mythic narratives,
  • the significance of national/regional boundaries and categories like “citizen,” “immigrant,” “stranger” in fantasy narratives; ways in which introducing non-human thinking races shapes the reader’s concept of social relations,
  • the impact, on fantasy literature and film, of the theoretical and political frameworks of globalization,
  • ways in which fantasy allows its audience to better understand the effects of globalization on the nation and the environment,
  • the implications of “common speech” versus racial languages in fantastic worlds,
  • fellowships, guilds, republics and leagues in fantasy and role-playing games as a form of integration above divisions, suggesting a partnership-based cultural and racial patchwork with a place for individuality; imaginary relevance of culturally diverse union to the idea of European integration,
  • the journey—not only an archetypal, but also actual experience—and the quest-based plot as reflecting the mobility of the contemporary globalized world,
  • the positive and negative motivations for unification and cooperation,
  • fantasy narratives as a type of discourse on important contemporary issues: eugenics, genetic manipulation, artificial intelligence, human and animal cloning, culture clash,
  • essentialization and relativiziation of moral concepts in fantastic literature and film,
  • speculation on the merits and dangers of a community constructed around a specific ideological or moral issue: matriarchy, patriarchy, technology, nature-worship, sexual affirmation or constraint, and so forth.

    The deadline for proposals is December 31, 2007. Proposals must include your name, e-mail address, mailing address, telephone number, institutional affiliation, technology requests (availability to be confirmed later), presentation/workshop title, and a 300-word abstract. Presentations will be limited to 20 minutes; workshops to 30 minutes. Selected papers will be considered for publication in the conference proceedings. Please submit your proposals to:

    Marek Oziewicz and Justyna Deszcz-Tryhubczak
    Institute of English Studies, University of Wroclaw
    ul. Kuźnicza 22, 50-138 Wroclaw, Poland

    Electronic submissions are preferred, but not required. Please send them as Word document attachments, alternatively via plain-text email. Detailed information about costs, accommodation, optional tours etc. will follow in January.

    Conference secretary:

    Conference organizers: