UDE ALUS Symposium 2019 CfP

ALUS Symposium

Simultaneity in the City

15 February 2019, University of Duisburg-Essen

Simultaneity is an essential feature of citiness. The constant acceleration of urban life and the increasingly densely populated cities it takes place in confront us with countless layers of simultaneously occurring events, stories and developments. The interconnectedness of cities across the globe through new media only adds to the impression that simultaneity is “the crux of any attempt to narrate urban complexity, for simultaneity, the notion of innumerable things –momentous or trivial – happening at the same time, is surely a central characteristic of urban complexity.”[1] Simultaneity is a central concern not only in urban studies, but also in literary, film and media studies (and particularly in narratology across media), in transnationalism and transculturality, geocriticism, or diaspora studies, to only name some of the possible fields. Simultaneity therefore links urban studies to all of them.

The old question of whether a written text, linear in nature, can ever fully convey simultaneity, which has most famously been asked in Lessing’s Laocoon (1766), continues to motivate research on simultaneity. As Lessing argues, words on a page can tell a story only in sequence, unlike a painting (or the split screen in a film) which allows for simultaneous perception of several aspects of a scene. The innumerable stories that take place in a city, side by side, at any moment, can never be fully contained in any medium. Nonetheless, writers from diverse backgrounds—from Gustave Flaubert, Evgenij Ivanovič Zamjatin, Yokomitsu Riichi, Mu Shiying, Oliverio Girondo, James Joyce, Mário de Andrade, or T.S. Eliot, to Kiran Desai, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, or Naguib Mahfouz, to name only a few—have explored simultaneity in urban literature. This symposium aims to engage in a critical examination of such diverse attempts at representing urban complexity.

At the ALUS (Association for Literary Urban Studies)[2] symposium that will take place on Friday, 15 February 2019 at the University of Duisburg-Essen, we want to explore questions that relate to simultaneity in the city and the challenges that arise in representing it, while also encouraging research on the potential and potency of the concept. The symposium will take place on the Essen Campus of the University of Duisburg-Essen, where most of the institutes that share the university’s special focus on urban studies are located, although several research projects in urban studies also span the entire University Alliance Ruhr. Jason Finch and Lieven Ameel, president and vice president of ALUS, have been invited as a special guest speakers.

Suggested topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Simultaneity in literature
  • Simultaneity in audio-/visual arts and media
  • Urban complexity
  • The urban palimpsest
  • Globalisation, transnationalism, translocality
  • Theoretical perspectives on simultaneity
  • Historical perspectives on simultaneity
  • Simultaneity in Modernist/Avantgarde literature

We invite proposals for contributions (20 minutes in length) from scholars at all stages of their research. Proposals should include an abstract (200 words maximum) and a brief biographical note and should be sent to Lena Mattheis (lena.mattheis@uni-due.de) and Saskia Hertlein (saskia.hertlein@uni-due.de) by 30 September 2018. Potential presenters will be informed by 15 October 2018 whether their abstract has been accepted. Further information and current updates on the symposium will be provided on the symposium website www.uni-due.de/anglistik/alus2019.


[1] Gurr, J. M. (2011). “The Literary Representation of Urban Complexity and the Problem of Simultaneity: A Sketchy Inventory of Strategies.” In: Gurr, J.; Raussert, W. (eds.) Cityscapes in the Americas and Beyond: Representations of Urban Complexity in Literature and Film. Trier, Tempe: 12.

[2] For more information on ALUS, please visit https://blogs.helsinki.fi/hlc-n/