TexMoot 2020–Apocalypse: Unveiling the Future
Signum University’s Third Annual Texas Literature & Language Symposium
From Ragnarok to Revelation, from the utopian proposals of Plato’s Republic to the dystopian vision of Huxley’s Brave New World, a prominent concern of human language and literature has always been to describe possible futures. Some of these visions of the future are cataclysmic, looking forward to a time when Heaven—or Mother Earth—will wipe the slate clean; others propose a more optimistic vision of progress. Recent films such as Interstellar or Tomorrowland have taken a middle way, suggesting that although humanity has recently fallen short of its promise, there still remains hope that we will be able to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Ultimately, these myriad versions of our destiny tell us as much about who we are as they do about where we are going.
In 2020, Signum University’s Annual Texas Language and Literature Symposium (TexMoot) invites you to join us as we consider visions of the eschaton in ancient and medieval literature, classic sci-fi and fantasy, and contemporary pop culture. Please submit your abstract using the form online at http://texmoot.org/call-for-papers.
We are accepting submissions in three categories:
- Flash Papers (10-minute academic presentations)
- Conference Papers (20-minute academic talks)
- Original Poems (we’re looking for topical poems on the conference theme only, up to 24 lines long, deliverable in under 2 minutes, to be read aloud by the poet to kick off a or paper session. Submit the entire poem in the online form).
Possible topics include the following, but feel free to dream up others!
- Obsession with our future is by no means a modern phenomenon; the ancient and medieval worlds were full of apocalyptic literature, of dream visions and warnings of final judgment. The Old Norse narrative of Ragnarok is a fixed part of popular culture—less well known is the Old Saxon Muspilli or the medieval iconography of the Last Judgment. How do these ancient and medieval understandings resist or reaffirm our stereotypes about them, and how they inform our own understandings of our futures?
- How do cultural narratives of utopia or dystopia, cataclysm or apocalypse reflect the hopes and fears of a particular era? Have the dystopian stories of the 20th Century served rather to predict or prevent the outcomes they foresaw?
- The Biblical Genesis narrative, the apocryphal Book of Enoch, and Babylonian mythology all link the Deluge to the rapid development of technology and exploitation of the nonhuman natural world divorced from virtue. In what way have recent narratives of ecological environmental disaster embraced or replaced religious imagery of apocalypse?
- Science fiction worlds such as the Star Trek franchise, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, The Expanse books and TV series, and Ian M. Banks’ Culture series all propose futures for mankind that range from shining possibilities to gritty dystopias. But recent iterations of the sweeping space opera (such as the current Star Trek: Discovery series) have shifted from showing us a vision of our future to focusing on more contemporary issues. Does this change reflect a loss of certainty about the future, or a need to see our ideologies triumph in a time and place removed from our own contemporary situation?
- While classic sci-fi pushes the bounds of the known universe, cyberpunk, transhuman, and superhero fiction explore the frontiers of psychology, personality, and human identity. In an era when AI and machine learning are big business, but the Space Shuttle program has been scrapped, what can these stories tell us about our changing vision of the future and of ourselves?
- Movies and literature are two ways to gauge the apocalyptic attitude of our time, but others—such as music, theatre, and art—should not be neglected. Though hardly the focus of most pop ballads, doomsday is a recurring theme in music the world over, from the medieval Dies Irae to Queen’s “39.” Similarly, painters and visual artists from classical times to the present have been inspired to convey apocalyptic visions, as have playwrights from the York Mystery Cycle to Beckett’s Endgame. How do apocalyptic music, art, and other under-studied genres (gaming, graphic novels, etc.) serve to encapsulate our hopes and fears?
- Tales of futures often employ experimental stylistic approaches, such as nonlinear narrative, cyclical timelines, new CGI rendering software, or whole new genres. Does the unveiling of a mystery require certain technical innovations? Is it possible to portray an “apocalypse” (whether that is a single moment, a process, or some other type of revelatory end or beginning) in satisfactory temporal, terrestrial terms?