Call for Papers: (Over) Indulgence, Princeton University Spring 2020 Slavic Graduate Conference

(Over) Indulgence Conference: Entangling Sin and Virtue in Eastern Europe and Eurasia

A graduate conference sponsored by the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Princeton University

Date: May 7-9, 2020
Location: Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Princeton University
Keynote speaker: Eric Naiman (UC Berkeley)

Transgression against societal norms has long been elevated to transgression against the divine. Yet vice and virtue are not always mutually incompatible; morals and societal norms are not always black and white. Nor is transgression the only way to move from virtue to sin (or vice versa). In Crime and Punishment, it is Sonia who becomes Dostoevsky’s guiding star to redemption – despite her “fall from grace” into prostitution. (Over) Indulgence aims at exploring such virtuous acts of sin; our graduate conference is interested in tracing various entanglements of the virtuous and the sinful across the Eastern European and Eurasian landscape.

We invite submissions that address three major thematic clusters. The first, most literal, interpretation of our conference theme deals with the subversion of dominant norms. We are interested in papers that explore the “negative translation” through which chastity is mutually referential with promiscuity, heterosexuality – with homosexuality, sobriety – with alcoholism, and restraint – with gluttony (to name a few). What are the protocols of such translation, and what types of dialogue between the virtuous and the sinful does it require? How are “sinners” stigmatized or marginalized within this process of translation? What types of emotional regimes or havens does it generate? What kinds of entanglements within the physical, the psychological, and the symbolic does it produce?

We are also interested in the ways that the shifting norms surrounding sin and virtue can be seen as a constantly evolving process of acceptance and rejection in the field of aesthetics. For instance, the literary and artistic debates in the early Soviet Union could be easily seen as a reflection of a larger societal attempt to render the conflict between the virtue of the proletarian and the sin of the decadent bourgeois as an argument over the correct orientation toward literary and artistic form. Radical, form-focused avant garde projects of the 1920s presented themselves as the sole viable path forward to a truly proletarian culture. Yet by the mid-1930s this rhetoric was turned against them, as Socialist Realism became the sole proper, virtuous aesthetic orientation. This transformation of the prior virtue into a sin was neither simple nor complete, producing a variety of hybridized approaches, liminal forms, and ambiguous devices. We are interested in proposals that focus on such aesthetics and poetics of entanglement, illuminating the convoluted coexistence of the dominant and its opposites.

Another application of the conference theme deals with institutionalized settings in which norms (and their opposites) are created, taught, and propagated in society. The institutions that determine and enforce these standards range from schools and governments to ideological parties and religious structures, but this process—and resistance to it—can also happen through homes, emotional communities, and literature. We are interested in understanding practices and regimes that turn moral, aesthetic, emotional, or political entanglements into clear-cut choices and models. How does the establishment, affirmation, and evolution of what is considered positive and negative take place? What are the tools that ensure “streamlining of norms,” and who defines “moral clarity?” In short, how does one untangle these knots to navigate sin and indulgence?

By expanding and collapsing the borders of sin and virtue, we hope to open a space for discussion, intervention, and scholarly experimentation. We invite proposals from graduate students working in literature, film, history, politics, anthropology, sociology, religion, cultural studies, music, art, and gender studies. At the conference, each presenter will have 10-15 minutes to give their paper, followed by the discussant’s commentary and open discussion.

Please send your abstract (approx. 300 words) and a brief bio (approx. 50 words), along with any questions to by February 16, 2020 (we will notify the selected finalists by February 23, 2020).

We may be able to cover some transportation and lodging costs, depending on the availability of funding.

Organizing committee: Laura Matthews, Daniel Rusnak, and Charles Swank Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures Princeton University

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