Conference: Words Unofficial: Gossip, circulation, mediation

November 19 - 20 2015

Description: From Chaucer’s House of Fame to Gossip Girl, the distortive power of rumor and gossip has long generated both fascination and anxiety across media, genres, and periods. In the digital age, unofficial discourse has acquired the potential for frenzied transmission, often substantiating established fears surrounding the nebulous nature of the intermediary. The fascination and paranoia attached to the spread and (mis)handling of information speaks to a deeply-rooted unease around origins, third-parties, and modes of exchange. To label gossip as solely nefarious, however, ignores its positive manifestations as participatory, subversive, and empowering, as well as its potential role in anti-hegemonic discourse or storytelling.

This conference will explore how various forms and modes, both literary and otherwise, have treated information misplaced and in motion. This conference will foster a cross-disciplinary and cross-temporal conversation, reflecting on various interpretations of unrecognized or cryptic modes of communication.

Keynote Speaker:

Susan Phillips, Professor of English. Northwestern University.

Faculty Roundtable: 

  • Natasha Barnes, Associate Professor of African American Studies and English. University of Illinois at Chicago.
  • Peter Coviello, Professor of English. University of Illinois at Chicago.
  • Patrick Jagoda, Assistant Professor of English. University of Chicago.
  • Lynn Spigel, Frances Willard Professor of Screen Cultures. Northwestern University.