What’s aught but as ‘tis valued?’
William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, II.ii, 53

In times of austerity, it is more than ever essential that what and how we value, and the far-reaching effects of any such valuation, be closely examined. The need for such attention has become particularly urgent within universities, where recent reductions of funding have sparked a sharp increase of debate over ‘the value of the Humanities’. With that in mind, the Oxford English Faculty Graduate Conference 2015 invites papers on all aspects of ‘value’, as a concept that has, and will always inspire great passion, and great controversy.

The concept of ‘value’ has the ability to shine light in dark corners, to illuminate what goes unspoken or unacknowledged in a society or in a text. How is value attributed to one thing and not to another? Is value always historically and socially contingent? Or is there anything that can be considered universally valuable, such as basic rights? Is value always a moral issue? More particularly, how has value functioned in texts throughout time, and how does that affect the value that we attribute to texts themselves? What, in short, can be learnt from the literature of value, and the value of literature? And how have these values been reflected in the academy, in what we study and how we study it?

Contributors may consider, but need not be limited to:

  • Texts that reflect certain values, and how they are constructed.
  • Markers of value: use and usefulness, difficulty, religious significance, political engagement, artistic integrity etc.
  • Valuations along lines of gender, racial, national, linguistic and sexual difference.
  • The combining and clashing of distinct value-systems.
  • Valuation in material culture: money, wealth, and commodity, especially in the literary marketplace.
  • The idea of intrinsic versus commodity value.
  • The relationship between aesthetic and ethical values.
  • Value and the canon: ways in which one set of texts becomes valued above another.
  • Formal value: emphasis and accent within texts.
  • Value and editorial decision: the formation of the ‘authoritative text’.
  • The value, or non-value, of certain methods and approaches to the study of literature.
  • Attempts to resist the allocation or expression of value; hidden or concealed values; the power of assumed values.

Applications are welcome from graduate students at all stages irrespective of institutional affiliation, and working on all aspects of English Studies. Proposals are invited for twenty-minute papers, to be delivered as part of panels of three. Individual proposals (of 250 words), and panel proposals (of up to 700 words), for three papers that interact under a common theme, are accepted.  Please send proposals to value.conference@ell.ox.ac.uk.

The deadline for submissions is 23rd February 2015. The one-day conference will take place on Friday 5 June 2015.

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