[Msa-discuss] CFP: Automation (ACLA 2018 seminar); Abstracts due September 21, 9am

Jap-Nanak Makkar jkm5ar at virginia.edu
Fri Sep 8 11:03:36 EDT 2017

Dear MSA members,

Below, you'll find a CFP for a seminar on Automation. Please submit
abstracts by *September 21, 9am EST* through the ACLA portal (

I've already received a few excellent submissions, but I'd love to add the
perspective of a few modernists!

Best regards,



2018 Annual meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association

*University of California, Los Angeles*

*March 29 – April 1*

*Seminar: “Automation”*

*Abstracts due September 21, 9am EST*; submit through the ACLA online

Organizer: Jap-Nanak Makkar, University of Virginia (jkm5ar at virginia.edu)

According to psychiatrist Ernst Jentsch, an automaton incites a feeling of
intellectual uncertainty in the beholder—“doubt as to whether an apparently
animate object really is alive,” doubt that, for Sigmund Freud, amounted to
an experience of *das Unheimliche*/*Heimlich*. If uncanny automatons raised
questions about the role of science and progressive mechanization in
early-twentieth-century continental Europe, then, arguably, they perform a
different function in the contemporary, global world. Today, automatons,
and their conceptual cousin, *automation*, have sunk beneath the domain of
the visible. Far from being typified by an encounter with a nearly-animate
object, automation generates parts of our material experience—as when
algorithms trade on the global market, or when software programs connect
soldiers in Nevada to a target in Pakistan.

This seminar invites participants to reflect on automation, in term of its
long history and in terms of its contemporary instances. How does
automation in its contemporary guise differ from the wind-up dolls of the
late nineteenth century? How do forms of creative expression (literature,
music, cinema, visual art) and currently available aesthetic modes
(romanticism, modernism, and realism) fare against widespread scientism?
Convening scholars of multiple literary traditions and research
specialties, this seminar will advance participants’ understanding of how
to conduct innovative, sophisticated work at the intersection between
science and technology studies, and literature.

Papers may pursue the following lines of inquiry:

-       The humanities and automation (panelists may address theoretical
issues of digitization, “informatization,” big data, and digital humanities)

-       Automation and philosophy: problems of will, freedom, agency,

-       Phenomenological approaches to historical or contemporary automation

-       Literary theories most helpful in the study of automation or
computer culture (psychoanalysis, historicism, cultural studies, digital
humanities, post-critique)

-       Historical events critical for the study of automation

-       The impact of political ideologies (liberalism, neoliberalism,
etc.) on a culture of rapid automation and technologization

-       Automation and financialization (and economic thought)

-       Automation and uneven development

-       Comparative (or comparative literary) approaches to technologies or

Please submit abstracts through the ACLA portal (https://www.acla.org/node/
add/paper), which opens Thursday, August 31st at 12pm EST and closes at *9am
EST on Thursday, September 21**st*.  Submitters are advised, also, to
familiarize themselves with the unique structure of the ACLA conference by
visiting http://www.acla.org/annual-meeting. Please contact the seminar
organizer with questions or concerns.
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