Scholarship on the contemporary has a unique relationship to questions of canonicity and value. What values shape the choices made in research and teaching on the contemporary? What canons does this work produce? And how do these values and canons relate to those produced in education and the publishing and cultural industries?

This one-day symposium will debate ideas of canonicity and cultural value that inform research and teaching in contemporary literary studies. It will feature three central elements:

1) A workshop in which we will debate the necessity of establishing a sense of canonicity in the field of contemporary literary studies as well as the right to refuse certain dominant cultural figures.

2) A roundtable featuring Merve Emre (Oxford), Sarah Dillon (Cambridge), David James (Birmingham), Raga Makawi (Zed Books) and Mary Jean Chan (Oxford Brookes), which will discuss the role that scholars, editors, and publishers play in institutional gatekeeping.

3) Flash-papers and/or posters (5 mins max) presenting different perspectives on canon and value formation in the contemporary.

Overall, these sessions will help participants to develop and swap strategies for syllabus design as well as research and publications, developing a clearer articulation of the ways in which competing ideas about core texts and themes inform contemporary literary studies in the UK.

Call for Attendees:

The event is free to attend and open to all – please RSVP to by 30th April 2019. Lunch will be provided on the day – please specify your dietary requirements in your email. The venue is fully accessible but if you require any further accessibility information please consult our access page or contact us via email.

Thanks to the generous support of the British Association for Contemporary Literary Studies (BACLS) and the University of Southampton, we will be able to offer a number of travel awards to PGRs and precariously employed ECAs to attend and/or present. If you would like to apply please email us at by 30th April outlining in no more than 500 words:

  • Your research; a statement of need; a statement of how attendance at the event would enable you to further your research and/or career. Please specify if you are also proposing a flash-paper.

Call for Papers:

We also invite flash-papers (5 mins max) on the idea of canon formation in the contemporary. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • What are the values that shape your research and teaching?
  • Should scholarship on the contemporary avoid canon formation and value-systems altogether?
  • What are the best ways to organise modules on contemporary literature and culture (forms, chronology, theories, themes etc.)?
  • Which figures do you see as essential to your scholarship and teaching, and which would you like to “decanonise”?
  • The periodisation of the contemporary and its relevance to canon formation.
  • Canon formation beyond academia (education, prizes, the media etc.).
  • How might genre and genre writing challenge existing canons in contemporary literary studies?

Please send an abstract (150 words max) and a short bio (50 words max) to by 30th April. If you wish to apply for a bursary, please follow the instructions above.


This event is organised by Contemporary Studies Network (Rachel Sykes [University of Birmingham], Diletta De Cristofaro [University of Birmingham], Arin Keeble [Edinburgh Napier University]) in collaboration with Kevin Brazil (University of Southampton) and Andrew Dean (UCL).