Call For Papers

‘When any real progress is made, we learn and unlearn anew what we thought we knew before.’

(Henry David Thoreau)

Throughout history the complex and contested idea of progress has held wide-ranging implications for literature and literary criticism. We see the meanings and consequences of progress translated across world literature, from The Pilgrim’s Progress to the Futurist Manifesto; Renaissance Humanism to the Post-Human; from colonialism to postcolonial literature and theory.

The Oxford English Graduate Conference 2016 invites you to explore and dismantle progress in literature and literary criticism. What do we mean when we talk about progress? Progress for whom and towards what? In what ways might an investment in progress have been radically compromised by recent geopolitical events? These questions are open for debate, and we look forward to engaging with your ideas throughout this one-day conference. Contributors might consider, but are not limited to, the following:

Scientific progress and literature

·       Technological advancement

·       Internet/social media

·       Digital humanities

·       Impact of Cinema/home media

Formal progress

·       Reader’s literal progression through a text

·       Experimental writing

·       Narrative (e.g. linearity/non-linearity)

·       Intertextuality

·       Reading difficult texts

Period-specific conceptions of progress

·       Meaning of progress throughout history

·       Value of progress as theory of history/literature

·       Progress as ideology

·       Cultural degeneration/improvement

·       Meaning of  ‘contemporary’ or ‘avant-garde’

Literary & cultural criticism

·       Function of criticism in society

·       Notions of ‘taste’/‘the correction of taste’ (T.S. Eliot)

·       Leaps forward/steps backwards

·       Literary activism (Can literature change the world?)

·       Interdisciplinarity

This one day conference will be held in the University of Oxford English Faculty on Friday 3 June 2016. We welcome proposals for twenty-minute papers, to be delivered as part of panels of three. Individual proposals (of 250 words) are accepted, but panel proposals (of 500 words) from three speakers, for three papers that interact under a common theme, are also strongly encouraged.

Please send all submissions to by Friday 19 February 2016 and for more information, see: