Conference Details

The past few years have demonstrated limitations of and problems with the concept of Canadian literature. In print and online, at conferences and on social media, the value of CanLit has been subject to necessary scrutiny. From the metaphor of CanLit as a “dumpster fire” to Black and Indigenous writers’ critiques of CanLit as racist and colonialist, the language with which we discuss writing in Canada has changed. These discussions—and the online forums in which they unfold—are redefining Canadian cultural production. While many have opposed the very notion of CanLit, new modes of public engagement (social media, podcasting, and so on) have also required us to rethink the public sphere and the discourse that takes place within it.

downtown mural

Future Horizons is a two-day interdisciplinary conference that will respond to the new, connected relationship between Canadian literature and public discourse. The event will bring together artists, scholars, public intellectuals, literary and cultural critics, and the public to reflect on the content and forms of contemporary Canadian literature and Canadian public discourse. We invite scholarly, creative, and interdisciplinary presentations that address the following questions:

  • How does the history of CanLit inform the current relationship between literary and public discourses?
  • How have historically underrepresented peoples used—and how are they using—creative practices to create alternative public spaces?
  • What challenges do diasporic and Indigenous communities bring to liberal notions of the public sphere?
  • How does neoliberalism influence the relationship between public discourse and literary culture?
  • How does social media transform how we speak about and understand identity, citizenship, and culture? 
  • How does technology mediate public conversations about race, Indigeneity, sexuality, and gender? 
  • What vision of the humanities, and of the human, are evoked by a critical digital humanities? 
  • What might a digital public poetics look like? 
  • What does it mean to speak publicly or act as a public intellectual in an age of surveillance and precarity? 
  • How do Canadian readers, writers, and critics engage in public criticism today?
  • How has Canadian literature responded to new technological developments for creating and disseminating literature, criticism, and commentary? 

In addition to academic papers, there will also be workshops to support the development of new, experimental projects that engage the public (starting a podcast, using 3D printing, starting a small press, curating a reading series, analyzing social media, developing a digital literary archive). The conference is hosted in collaboration with the Hamilton Public Library and McMaster University’s Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship. Keynote speakers include M. NourbeSe Philip, Katherine McKittrick, and Erin Wunker.

This project emerges from Sarah Roger & Paul Barrett’s work on Canadian literary discourse.