International conference at the University of Strasbourg, March 21-22, 2024

Deadline: September 30, 2023

The Spatial Imagination in Postwar and Contemporary American Literature and Art

A two-day international conference at the University of Strasbourg funded by the Institut Universitaire de France

Dates: 21-22 March 2024

Venue: University of Strasbourg, France

Confirmed keynote speaker: Dawn Raffel is a writer whose book Boundless as the Sky came out in January 2023.

Seen as an emblematic feature of the United States, American space has been represented, interpreted and questioned along multiple lines. Yet, these lines of critical inquiry often remain separate and discrete, treated from perspectives that do not take into account their interaction. They are also spelt along a particularly white, male trajectory. While it is generally agreed that ‘space’ is a major component of the American imagination, literary representations and artistic practices of space in postwar US have rarely been treated together as intersecting narratives. This conference sets out to consider postwar and contemporary conceptualizations and material practices of space in American literature and art, with the prospect of opening larger and more interdisciplinary vistas. The conference builds on the 2018 conference in Paris on The cartographic imagination. Art, literature and mapping in the United States, 1945-1980.

What are the prevailing and the underrepresented spatial imaginaries in postwar and contemporary America, and how are they represented in literature and art? How do these expressions relate to various Indigenous and colonial traditions of the spatial imagination? How do issues of whiteness, race, and the racial imagination shape spatial practices and imaginaries? What does the dialogue between literary texts, visual studies and art historical practices bring to the understanding of the construction and experience of space in American postwar and contemporary contexts? What are the major paradigms that arise? How do national and transnational, local and global, official and alternative narratives of space intersect in literature and art? How do the contexts of US imperialism and militarization play out in the representation of Cold War and ‘war on terror’ geographies?

We invite proposals that highlight the ways in which literature and art, and more generally literary and art historical studies as disciplines, can be fruitfully and innovatively brought together and made to interact. This conference will be a venue for discussing interdisciplinary and creative methodologies. An important, exploratory aspect of the conference consists precisely in determining the possible intersections between art and literature that deserve to be further explored.

We invite interdisciplinary proposals on the following topics:

  • Intermediality/transmediality and space;
  • The legacies of literary and artistic modernisms and their investigations of space;
  • Indigenous and minoritised spatial discourses and practices;
  • Spatial practice, whiteness, race;
  • US militarization, imperialism and Cold War geographies;
  • Popular genres (crime fiction, science fiction and graphic novels) and the spatial imagination;
  • Liminal spaces, meta-spaces, horizontal and vertical spaces;
  • The narrative of un-framing that begins in the late 1960s with site-specificity and the disturbance of the gallery and museum;
  • Comparative literary and artistic representations of exploration, displacement and exile;
  • Alternative constructions of American geography;
  • Discourses of place informed by environmentalism and ecology in literature and art;
  • The local and the global;
  • Mapping and counter-mapping;
  • Artists’ writings and artistic practice;
  • The digital turn in literature and art (electronic literature, locative media), including Geographic Information Systems and digital cartography;
  • The notion of “space” itself as it has been understood and transformed by writers, artists and cultural practitioners.

We invite:

  •  individual paper proposals for 20-minute papers (abstracts of no more than 350 words, plus 100 word biography)
  • panel proposals for 1.5 hour panels (panel abstracts of no more than 350 words, plus paper abstracts of no more than 250 words each, plus 100-word biographies). Panels of no more than 3 presenters are recommended.
  • suggestions of interdisciplinary panels or roundtables (a mix of critical and creative practitioners are welcome)

Please submit your proposals and biographies to Gwen Cressman ( and Monica Manolescu ( by September 30, 2023.

Registration for the conference will be free of charge.

Organizers: Sandrine Baudry (University of Strasbourg), Chloé Bour-Lang (University of Strasbourg), Gwen Cressman (University of Strasbourg), Catherine Gander (Maynooth University), Hélène Ibata (University of Strasbourg), Monica Manolescu (University of Strasbourg/Institut Universitaire de France), Will Norman (University of Kent).

Selective bibliography

Alworth, David, Site Reading. Fiction, Art, Social Form, Princeton UP, 2015.

Baudry, Sandrine, Hélène Ibata and Monica Manolescu (eds.), Landscapes and Aesthetic Spatialities in the Anthropocene, RANAM. Recherches anglaises et nord-américaines, 54/2021.

Michael Dear et al. (eds.), GeoHumanities. Art, History, Text at the Edge of Place, Routledge, 2011.

Gander, Catherine and Sarah Garland (eds.), Mixed Messages. American Correspondences in Visual and Formal Practices, Manchester UP, 2016.

Goeman, Mishuana, Mark My Words. Native Women Mapping Our Nation, University of Minnesota Press, 2013.

McKittrick, Katherine and Clyde Woods (eds.), Black Geographies and the Politics of Place, Between the Lines, 2007.

Shaw, Lytle, Fieldworks. From Place to Site in Postwar Poetics, Alabama University Press, 2012.

McNamara, Kevin R., Urban Verbs. Arts and Discourses of American Cities, Stanford University Press, 1996.

Manolescu, Monica, Cartographies of New York and Other Postwar American Cities. Art, Literature and Urban Spaces, Palgrave, 2018.

Manolescu, Monica and Will Norman (eds.), The Cartographic Imagination. Art, Literature and Mapping in Postwar America, European Journal of American Culture 39.1, 2020.

Tally Jr., Robert T., Topophrenia: Place, Narrative and the Spatial Imagination, Indiana UP, 2018.

Manzanas, Ana Maria and Jesus Benito, Occupying Space in American Literature and Culture. Static Heroes, Social Movements and Empowerment, Routledge, 2016.