Voices can be marginalized or put on a pedestal; they can rise above the noise of the crowd or remain ignored; they can sing solos or puncture the harmony. Throughout this one-day interdisciplinary conference, we invite participants to reflect on the place and role of voices that are considered singular in the English-speaking world. We want to shed light on the ways in which a voice, whether singled out or in relation to others, assert its unicity and resists to the homogenization of dominant discourses.
What makes a voice singular? Literary and critical theory has supplied many answers. From Genette’s narratology to Bakhtine’s dialogism, by way of hybrid narratives, implicit characterizations, and autobiographical postures, the voice, always in its singular form, appears to function as a cornerstone of literature. The singularity can belong to the writer, who may be canonized or marginalized: which voices have been judged unique, minor, ostracized, dissenting, nonstandard, extra-ordinary, surprising, or queer? Who gets to judge them as such? Singularity can also come up in the very narrative and discursive techniques at work in the text, or be a part of the plot itself. Translated works and the very act of translating bring a new perspective: can the voice of the person translating the text be considered singular? How does it coexist with that of the author within the translated work?
In linguistics, the polysemy of “voice” allows for a broad range of issues. We can wonder how the use of passive or active voices can create specific meaning effects, or how the linguistic study of voices can convey a political aspect. Two examples seem most relevant here: first, the use of certain pronouns to give visibility to marginalized identities (the singular they claimed by trans and/or non-binary persons, for example), and second, the existence of socially marked dialects or accents that have become stigmatized (AAVE) and/or used to subversive ends. The “Polari” is thus a secret language used by the gay community in the UK before homosexuality was decriminalized.
From a historical and social perspective, the singular voice can be that of visionaries who seek to effect profound social changes, or that of whistleblowers. The voice does not even need to be oralized: it can be the vote and what it expresses, through local or national elections. If the people speaks with one voice, which voices will be ostracized or dissenting? Who is included in the “silent majority”? Who claims to belong to “counter-culture”?
This conference is open to all but aims to showcase the work of young researchers in Anglophone Studies. We welcome papers in English and in French.
Please email 300-word abstracts and a short biographical note to firstname.lastname@example.org by November 30, 2018. We aim at notifying selected participants by mid-January 2019.