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Comparative Literature at Western

Graduate Student Conference:

The Annual Graduate Conference is presented each year by students in the graduate programs of Comparative Literature, Hispanic Studies and Criticism & Theory.

2014 Brevity: 16th Annual MLL Graduate Conference at Western, March 6-8, 2014

16th Annual Graduate Student Conference
Department of Modern Languages and Literatures
Western University, Canada

Keynote speakers: Luca Somigli (University of Toronto); Mark McDayter (Western University). 

“Cuando despertó, el dinosaurio todavía estaba allí” [When (s)he woke up, the dinosaur was still there]. This is the entirety of a 1959 short story by Augusto Monterroso. It could easily fit in a Twitter status update almost three times over. 

Brevity can be interpreted in many different ways – from a sense of briefness and urgency to an economization of words. At times, brevity may be perceived as superficial or frivolous, except to those of Spartan sensibilities. To others, such as Polonius, “brevity is the soul of wit [/ And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, / I will be brief: your noble son is mad]” (II, ii). 

Brevity can also allow us to linger on thought.  In his memo on quickness, Italo Calvino interpreted it as festina lente (“make haste, slowly”). Rapidity (and brevity) are seen to alter time, so that we can thoroughly reflect on concepts. 

And so we welcome you to the 16th Annual Graduate Student Conference hosted by the Comparative Literature and Hispanic Studies programs at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada. This year we will focus on brevity: its possibilities, its requirements, and its ramifications. From the concise forms of the Antiquity to digital forms of the 21st century; from carpe diem to YOLO; from haiku to Twitter; from the wise aphorisms of Seneca to Oscar Wilde’s witty quips and today’s Internet memes.

The Conference will take place on March 6 – 8, 2014. The conference organizers particularly welcome papers that are interdisciplinary, including but not limited to literature, theory and criticism, cultural studies, film studies, visual arts, music, theatre and popular culture. Suggested paper topics may include, but are certainly not limited, to the following:

- Narratives of brevity: short stories, novelle, fabliaux, fairy tales, short novels, entremeses.
- Brevity in poetry: haiku, labor limae, modernist poetry, Ermetismo, Symbolism, fragment(ation)s.
- Brevity of thought: aphorisms, maxims, proverbs, manifestos.
- Thoughts on brevity: epitaphs, elegies.
- Brevity in the  arts: short films, music videos, advertisements, miniseries, photography.
- Brevity in linguistics: brevity in translation, discourse analysis and sociolinguistics; economy of language, elisions, abbreviations, pronouns, parataxis,        nicknames, endangered languages.
- Brevity as a good thing: brevity vs. nonsense; simplicity and clarity.
- Brevity in new media: communications in instant messaging, Twitter, chats, hashtags.
- Brevity as transience: impermanence in works of art, temporary exhibitions, happenings, trends, fads, movements, waves (both in commerce and literature), ruins.
- Brevity in cultural studies and folk culture: proverbs, idioms, patronymic, epithets, disappearance of oral memory.
- Visual arts: minimalism, conceptual art.

Those interested in presenting 20-minute papers are asked to submit a 300-word abstract to by January 1st, 2014 (please note the extended deadline). We ask participants to please include name, affiliation, technical requirements and a 50-word bio, with their abstract. As this is a conference organized by two programs, we will accept abstracts and papers in both English and Spanish. For further information, please check out our Blog (, Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @BrevityWestern.

Selected papers will be published.

tl;dr: conference on brevity. Send us 300 words max by January 1st, 2014. go!

The organizers:
Natalia Caldas and Andrea Privitera

2013 Good Laugh, bad laugh, ugly laugh, my laugh


2012 Of Monsters and Miracles

2011 Emergence/ies

2010 In Transit

2009 The Aesthetics of Excess

2008 Repetition Returns

2007 Drawing a Blank

2006 Dark Matters: Obscured Thinking & Shadowed Language


2005 pornography's not about

2004 On Things Atomic

2003 On Distortion

2002 Tasty Texts and Literature: Discourses on Consumption

2001 Not Exactly Literature

2000 Silent Spaces & Ill-communication


1999 "Translation and Transgression"

First Graduate Student Conference, The Graduate Program in Comparative Literature, UWO, February 11-13, 1999.
Keynote Speaker: Charles Lock (University of Copenhagen)

For further information about any aspect of the program, please contact:
The Graduate Chair, Comparative Literature
Prof. David Darby,



Department of Modern Languages and Literatures - Western University
University College Building, Room 115
London, Ontario, Canada, N6A 3K7
Tel: 519.661.3196
Fax: 519.661.4093

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