CALL FOR PAPERS (deadline: 22 April 2019)
The third culture? // Literature and Sociology
University of Warwick (Coventry) – 14 June 2019
In 1985 Wolf Lepenies argued that sociology should be considered a ‘third culture’ arising between science and literature. Contemporary discourses and research, however, show us that sociology and literature have a long history of peculiar relatedness.
In 19th century Europe, sociology was considered both a competitor to and counterpart of literary study since consensus held that the two disciplines were best placed to analyse and depict the emerging industrial society. Figures like Balzac, Flaubert, Zola and Simmel hoped to merge literature and social science; while others (like Marx, Durkheim and Weber) drew inspiration from literary work in developing their early sociological masterpieces. Despite this history, the developing pan-European structure of knowledge with its prioritisation of empirical analysis prevented any extensive integration between the two fields (Longo 2015; Jacobsen, Drake et al. 2014; Wallerstein 2007).
This conference seeks to renew collaboration between sociology and literature by addressing their disciplinary intersections and coalescences.
From this starting point three inter-related dimensions emerge:
Firstly, that literature may serve as a heuristic tool for sociological analyses, providing, if not a simplistic ‘reflection’ of social reality, then at least a plausible description or anticipation of human actions and social contexts. In this way some fiction can be understood as social theory (as with Balzac, Dickens, Houellebecq and Saramago); while some sociological accounts can be understood as pieces of literature, with a ‘literary imagination’ underpinning many sociological works (as with Denzin and Richardson).
Secondly, in terms of cross-fertilisations, literary study has a long history of mining sociological theories and methodologies for the analysis of literary texts (as with Marxist literary studies and World Literature). More recently this has led to a rich sub-discipline that correlates literary forms and socio-economic processes via the work of Bourdieu and others. Literary theory, for its own part, has had a distinct impact on contemporary sociology, with the work of Said, Spivak and Jameson featuring prominently in sociology’s global or postcolonial turn.
And finally, literary works have historically worked as agents to foster reflection and political action on contemporary social issues (as with the work of Sinclair, Roy and El Saadawi). In this way, the intersection between sociology and literature can be used to focus and reflect on social issues like migration, racism and exploitation, serving activist projects and stimulating interventions into public life.
By reflecting on the productivity of these strands, we aim also to trace the difficulties and erasures which inhere as disciplinary objects are shifted and reconstituted, while bridging disciplinary parochialisms and reframing social and cultural issues beyond the confines of the university.
Thematic sessions and presentation topics for this conference may include, but are not limited to:
Theories of the intersections between sociology and literature
- Historical perspectives on the intersections between sociology and literature
- Sociological fiction
- Marxism and literature: contemporary perspectives
- Bourdieusian approaches to literary analysis
- Uses of literature and sociology that stimulate interventions into public life
Keynote speakers will be:
- Professor Mariano Longo (Università del Salento – Italy)
- Professor Virinder Kalra (University of Warwick - UK)
We welcome both proposals for individual papers (20 minutes) and panels (1 hour/ 3–4 papers) that encourage a reflection on these intersections. Please send either a 250-word abstract for an individual paper proposal or a panel proposal of 900 words and a short biography to firstname.lastname@example.org by 22 April 2019. Panel proposals should contain a brief description of the topic of the panel as well as the 3–4 abstracts that constitute the panel. Individual abstracts will be allocated a panel after review. Applicants will be notified by 26 April 2019.
Delegates to the conference will be expected to fund their own travel and accommodation. Thanks to our sponsors – the ESRC-DTC (University of Warwick) and the Social Theory Centre (University of Warwick) – the registration to the conference is free.