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‘A Matter of Context?’ American Literature Symposium (University of Cambridge)

May 16, 2015

A Matter of Context?
American Literature Symposium
* Saturday 16 May, 2014 * Faculty of English*
University of Cambridge
Keynote: Dr. Andrew Taylor (University of Edinburgh)
Closing Remarks: Prof. Adrian Poole (University of Cambridge)
The historicist turn in literary criticism, along with the tendency to count
American literature as part of the larger field of American Studies, has laid
emphasis, in the past twenty years, on the cultural and material determinants
that shape American texts. Are these, however, the most useful optics through
which to view a literary work? Does such attention to social or historical
description undermine the specificity of works of art? On the other hand, a
formalist approach may be as delimiting as a historicist reading, and may,
equally provoke us to ask what context is, and why it matters. From the Latin
contextus (meaning ‘connection’), ‘context’ may be more suggestive than the
geo- and socio-historic associations it most immediately conjures up. This oneday
symposium reopens a debate about what ‘context’ means, encouraging
participants to put pressure on the ways we use the term, and to imagine ways
of repurposing it. We would like contributors to reflect on their interpretative
approach to literary texts, to ask whether any act of interpretation is, implicitly,
an act of contextualization

Places are limited, and free registration is now open.


May 16, 2015
Event Category:


Joanne O’Leary and Kristen Treen


University of Cambridge
Mary Allan Building, Homerton College
Cambridge, CB2 8QP United Kingdom
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