The 28th Annual Conference of the English and American Literature Association

Theme: Dreams and Altered States of Consciousness
Conference organizers: English and American Literature Association of the Republic of China (EALA, Taiwan) & Department of English, National Chengchi University

Taiwan 

Date: October 31st, 2020
Venue: National Chengchi University, Taipei, Taiwan 

Call for Papers 

     A dream is a deceptively simple concept. It is an altered state of consciousness that, like trance, meditation or inspiration, deviates from ordinary waking consciousness and transports us into a fantastic world disconnected from logic and reason. It can also refer to an ambitious enterprise, the achievement of which usually requires rational plans and sensible judgement. In the form of idle daydreaming, a dream is what modern individuals, well-trained to pursue progress and value efficiency, tend to frown upon and shun at any cost. However, the dream is also linked to the shamanic, the ecstatic, the yogic, the meditative, the entheogenic, the liminal and the virtual—modes of experience that can alleviate or even resist the burden of being modern. On the one hand, a dream designates a private realm potentially inaccessible except by voluntary communication. On the other, as Martin Luther King's famous speech, “I Have a Dream,” has demonstrated, a dream can stand for a communal vision that carries racial and national significances for nations and people of all times and places.

     The history of English and American literature is punctuated by descriptions of dreams and fantasies in all their guises. William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream explores the comedy that arises when human beings encounter mischievous fairies. Horace Walpole maintained that one particular dream inspired him to write The Castle of Otranto, arguably the first Gothic novel in English literature. Romantic writers ride on the wings of poetic inspiration and celebrate the liminal states of dreams and altered consciousness as a gushing wellspring of imagination. As a co-author of Lyrical Ballads and founding figure of British Romanticism, Samuel Taylor Coleridge sometimes considers himself a scrivener of his transient oriental dreams. When Jane Eyre tells Rochester that she has strange dreams and when Lockwood's sleep is disturbed by nightmares, we see how important such altered states of consciousness are for the two Brontë sisters. Dreams and aspirations for ever-expanding strength and power motivate national and imperial projects, and, on individual levels, inform bildungsroman novels of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and indeed of all coming-of-age works featuring the modern and/or postcolonial subject. Such interest in the peculiar working of minds flourished, for instance, in the twentieth century, when writers like Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, T. S. Eliot, etc., experimented with the various ways through which words capture the intricate flowing of human consciousness. American literature celebrates and dramatizes the power of dreams with no less fervor than its English counterpart. From Washington Irving's short story “Rip Van Winkle” to Walt Whitman's poems, from Ralph Waldo Emerson's essays to William Faulkner's novels and more contemporary works of utopia/dystopia, writer after writer investigates what happen when our quotidian experiences are unsettled by fantasies or transformed by a spiritual yearning for a different world. Such yearning also finds expressions in the concept of “The American Dream.” When novelists, poets and playwrights explore what this ideal signifies for them, they not only popularize this sanguine idealism but also encourage their readers to probe into the beauty and sorrow inherent in such a celebrated term.

     This international conference provides a friendly academic platform for scholars to share their insight into how the concept of dreams bears on the history of English and American literature. At the end of “Ode to a Nightingale,” John Keats raises interesting poetic and aesthetic questions: “Was it a vision, or a waking dream? / Fled is that music:— Do I wake or sleep?” Inspired by them, this conference invites scholars to examine the extent to which “to dream or not to dream” is an empowering question, one that has motivated generations of English and American writers to take up their pens. We are interested in any topic that bears upon the humanistic implications of this discourse, from ancient tradition to more contemporary paradigms of self/national expression associated with artistic practice, social reform, psychological inquiry, spiritual/philosophical forms of knowing and our present digital modes of awareness and leisure. We welcome any papers related to the conference theme. Possible areas of investigation may include, but are not limited to, the following:

Liminality, trance and altered states of consciousness
Psychological and social interpretation of dreams
Dreams, spirituality and religion
Dreams, philosophy and forms of knowing
Digital modes of awareness
Dreams and social reform
Dreams, meditation and poetic imagination
Dreams and fantasy
Dreams and madness
Dreams and the problem of rationality
Dreams and Romanticism
Dreams and the bildungsroman
Dreams, neuroses and modernity
Dreams and imperial/national projects
The American Dream
Dreams, identity and the coming-of-age novel
Utopia and dystopia
Dreams and the everyday

     If you are interested in presenting your work in this conference, please submit an abstract (about 300 words including 5 key words,) and a brief CV (including your name, title, affiliation and contact information) to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by February 17th, 2020. The abstract and keywords can be in either English or Chinese.

Please note: All presenters affiliated with Taiwan's academic institutions must be English and American Literature Association (EALA) members in good standing. Presenters affiliated with overseas institutions can be exempted from membership but have to pay NT$ 1,000 for registration.

Important Dates

Abstract submission deadline: February 17th, 2020
Abstract acceptance notification: the end of March, 2020
Full paper submission deadline: September 20th, 2020
Conference date: October 31st, 2020