The Studies in Comparative Literature and Arts program at Brock University invites proposals for
its graduate symposium to be held March 5th, 2022 on the theme of “Pressures.”
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has compounded many of the everyday pressures we live with.
For young people in particular, symptoms of anxiety and depression stemming from uncertainty,
and insecurity have risen dramatically, even with the partial reopening of the world’s economies.
In Weariness of the Self Alain Ehrenberg writes about the increasing rates of depression in
contemporary societies, and attributes thisto the constant pressure to “measure up.” In The Burn
Out Society, Byung-Chul Han explores the paradox of individual freedom in late capitalist society
where discipline has been internalized and transformed into a subject’s constant self-pressuring
to perform and achieve.
Nevertheless, pressure is often the catalyst for creation. The “need for” can be triggered by a
variety of pressures from within artists (their drives and psyches) as well as from their lived
environments. This can vary from trauma and psychological problems to oppression from
authority that distort and control writers, artists, and other creatives. The literature of
displacement caused by war offers an example of creation under collective pressure. Can art be
created in the absence of pressure? What other aesthetic and artistic trends can be traced back
to times of cultural pressure? How does aesthetic production respond to current global
pressures? Which artistic responses are being created out of our needs to respond to pressure
and traumas of the past?
Socially conscious artists are responding to a growing planetary catastrophe. While society faces
growing pressure from an existential crisis requiring a global effort to avoid environmental
destruction, we ask what contributions are being made by artiststo the cause today? Sound artist
Kevin Curtis Norcross addresses the problematic nature of working within the Anthropocene
through his “sound works,” for example. How affective is art in increasing and mobilizing public
awareness? Are there aesthetic responses from the Indigenous cultures of Canada that offer new
perspectives for settler-colonial society?
Finally, pressure as a generative source can be into extended to an array of discussions, both
actual and potential. There are ways in which pressure, as a physical phenomenon, is productive.
A diamond, for example, only begins to form under 725,000 pounds of pressure per square inch.
Conceptually, obligation can take the form of the pressure to decide, resulting in action. In both
cases, pressure is the catalyst for the transformation from one form to another. Pressure, then,
is not static, but a continuous exertion of force against an object or boundary. There is a spatiotemporal element to pressure, as it moves through time and space in both an actual and/or
virtual way. The concept of pressure as a hermeneutic object opens questions such as: Is pressure
ever completely released? Does pressure create something come from nothing? In what
circumstances does pressure lead to freedom?
Possible topics may include, but are not limited to:
– Societal vs individual pressure
– The pressure to perform
– Tangible and intangible pressure
– Pressure of productivity / productive pressure
– Pressures and social media
– Pressures on/of the environment
– Geological pressure
– “Under Pressure”
– Discipline and pressure
– Releasing pressure and the carnivalesque
Please send abstracts of 200-250 words maximum along with a 50-word bio to firstname.lastname@example.org by 15 December 2021