California State University, Long Beach
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43rd Comparative Literature Conference Set for April 24-27

Continuing the longest-running event on campus, CSULB will host its 43rd Comparative Literature Conference Thursday through Sunday, April 24-27, by welcoming the American Comparative Literature Association’s (ACLA) 2008 Annual Meeting.

This year’s theme of “Arrivals and Departures” will be explored by an expected attendance of 1,200 participants from all over the world who will have the opportunity to attend 138 seminars on everything from “A Global Aesthetics of Pain: Prison Arrivals and Departures” to “Coming up for Heir: Identities and Sexualities Let Loose in the Early Modern Age.”

“The conference is multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary,” said Carl Fisher, a member of the Comparative World Literature and Classics Department since 2000. “The disciplinary range includes history, music, political science and philosophy as well as topics characteristic of traditional literary study. This is quite an achievement for our campus. It’s an opportunity for us to put our best foot forward.”

Fisher feels it is a tremendous leap for the department to move from a conference with 150 participants to one with 1,200. “We are lucky to be on a supportive campus,” he said. “Faculty and students from other departments are interested in participating. The College of Liberal Arts has contributed both financially and in terms of staff. Dean Gerry Riposa has been supportive of the conference. Academic Affairs has made generous contributions. We’re proud to be able to work at a national level. We think it’s good, not just for the department, but for the campus community.”

This year’s theme of arrivals and departures is a tip of the hat to the port of Long Beach. “The conference theme refers to the fact that the Port of Long Beach, together with the adjacent Port of Los Angeles, is the largest in the nation and a significant international gateway,” Fisher said. “The idea, of course, goes far beyond the place itself and encompasses literal journeys as well as all of the figurative, metaphorical, social, political, imaginative, emotional and psychological possibilities of representing movement.”

The conference’s interdisciplinary organization will be international in terms of content and attendance. “The papers will range from Asia to Latin America drawing participants from as far away as Hong Kong, Nigeria, Cameroon and Europe,” he said. “The majority of the participants will represent American universities with a 50-50 split between faculty and student presenters. CSULB students in M.A. and Ph.D. programs will present. It’s a nice opportunity for them to receive feedback on the work they do from departments as different as Romance/German/Russian Languages and Literatures to English.” 

The program opens on Thursday, April 24, with a morning registration before Friday, April 25, arrives with an ACLA Executive Board Meeting from 8 to 10 a.m. while panels meet through 5:30 p.m. and a plenary session at 6 p.m. Meetings continue on Saturday, April 26, and Sunday, April 27. The grand banquet will be held at 8 pm on Saturday, April 26, aboard the Queen Mary. “It’s an exciting choice that fits with our theme of arrivals and departures,” said Fisher.

The national conference is well attended. “This year’s may be the biggest conference the ACLA has ever had,” he said. “In recent years, the conference has been held in the U.S. at the University of Michigan, Penn State and Princeton and at such overseas locations as the Autonomous University in Mexico City and the University of Puerto Rico. Next year, the conference moves to Harvard. We’re in good company.”

CSULB’s selection as host for the conference represents a signal opportunity for the campus to be in the national spotlight. “This conference recognizes the department’s long history,” said Fisher. “It was founded in 1967 and is one of the oldest comparative literature departments in the nation. This is a unique opportunity to participate on the national stage and to show off what the department does.”

Fisher is especially pleased at the chance for intellectual ferment. “Last year, the conference topic was women, sexuality and early modern studies. Other conferences have focused on the global 18th century as well as film, literature and ideology,” he said. “This is an opportunity for students in the department to have some intellectual and practical engagement with publishing and the editorial experience.”

He feels the conference will be intellectually stimulating. “This conference will open doors and appeal to interests the university community usually doesn’t recognize,” he said. “This is an opportunity to see the university do what it does best ─ develop knowledge.”