Orphan Identities Symposium: Call for Papers

Keynote Speakers: Laura Peters and David Floyd

In 1975, Nina Auerbach commented: “Although we are now ‘all orphans,’ alone and free and dispossessed of our past, we yearn for origins, for cultural continuity. In our continual achievement of paradox, we have made of the orphan himself our archetypal and perhaps only ancestor” (1975 p 416).

The literary orphan figure occupies a liminal position in culture. Poised on the margins of the family, examining the relationship between the influence of the past and the capacity for self-fashioning in the creation of identity, orphan figures prompt important questions about the relationship between the self, the family and the wider social matrix, and self and other in especial.

Forty years on from Auerbach’s influential essay, and in the wake of important new contributions to the debate from Laura Peters and David Floyd (our keynote speakers), it is timely to consider the roles played by literary orphans, and assess the ways in which they reflect and refract the concerns of their contemporaneous cultures.

The Orphan Identities symposium will take place at the University of Portsmouth on Saturday November 12th 2016.

Topics may include (but are not limited to):

fashioning orphan identity; the liminal nature of orphan figures; orphans and transportation/colonial narratives; the orphan as scapegoat; the orphan and modernity; the orphan as dangerous supplement; the therapeutic power of the orphan; the war child/refugee

We are particularly interested in papers that deal with literature post 1800. Abstracts of around 250 words should be sent to: orphan-identities@port.ac.uk by June 10th 2016.