The USC Comparative Literature Symposium is an annual event organized by the graduate students of the USC Department of Comparative Literature. In the past, it has been funded by several USC College departments, Centers, and the USC College Graduate Professionalization Initiative. The format changes somewhat each year, but one constant is that distinguished symposium guests, among them Giorgio Agamben, Homi Bhabha, Judith Butler, Jacques Derrida, and Samuel Weber, respond to students’ lectures. The USC Department of Comparative Literature has a rich and successful tradition of hosting both emerging and established scholars for symposia, to the great benefit of the campus community.


2010 Comparative Literature Symposium
USC Department of Comparative Literature

Friday, February 19, 2010, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

Social Sciences Building (SOS) B40
USC University Park Campus Map here

Morning Session: 10:00 am to 12:00 pm
Prof. Timothy Murray will discuss panelists' papers. The audience is invited to participate.
Lunch Break: 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm, Bogardus Courtyard
Lunch will be provided for seminar participants.
Afternoon Session: 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm
"Folds of Longing on the Horizon of New Media Art"
A lecture by Prof. Timothy Murray.

In the current age of new media, various fields of study are experiencing a literal vanishing of the very materials that have traditionally defined them. With this disappearance of the physical material, how has our perception and interaction with the new medium altered? Does the end of the age of mechanical reproduction lead to a resurgence of the aura in older media? Is this the result of nostalgia for the tactile or other sensory experiences that no longer act together in the same way? How does the designation of spectral/material
change across different media?  

The featuring guest speaker and respondent is Timothy Murray, Professor of Comparative Literature and English, Director, Society for the Humanities; Curator, The Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art,
Cornell University. His research and teaching crosses the boundaries of new media, film and video, visual studies, twentieth-century Continental philosophy, psychoanalysis, critical theory, performance, and English and French early modern studies. He is currently working on a book, Immaterial Archives: Curatorial Instabilities @ New Media Art, which is a sequel to Digital Baroque: New Media Art and Cinematic Folds (Minnesota, 2008).

Prof. Murray will lead the seminar, addressing papers by graduate student Zach Blas (Duke University), Fiorella Cotrina (USC), Feng-Mei Heberer (USC), Philip Lobo (USC). (Click students' names to read their papers. Click here for the Call for Papers.)

In the afternoon, Prof. Murray will give a talk which will consider "longing" within the context of a
psycho-philosophical approach to new media studies.   The place of longing will be discussed not so much in a material context (the vanishing of materials) but more in a spectral: from consideration of models of mourning and melancholia in relation to the "loss" of analogue textual and cinematic formats to a reformulation of the dynamics "analogy" in the digital age. In considering a number of new media artworks and projects, the talk will raise the possibility of a flexible model of "the fold," in contrast to the mechanics of perspective, while positioning the valence of longing in relation to the future pull of informatics rather than the past lament of lost

Faculty and students from all disciplines are invited to participate.

COLT grad symposium poster designed by Emily Gavrila

Poster designed by Emily Gavrila

For more information, please contact or visit us on Facebook.

Director: Ana Paulina Lee

Organizing Committee: Nada Ayad, Monica Cure, Christian Lehmann, Ingrid Leventhal, Seth Michelson, Lindsay Nelson, Lucille Toth-Colombié, Ricardo Wilson


2009 Comparative Literature Symposium
USC Department of Comparative Literature

February 27, 2009

Seminar: Friday, February 27, 10-12 p.m., SOS B40

Professor Sakai will lead a seminar on the future of nationalism addressing papers by graduate students Mayumo Inoue (USC), Michelle Kim (USC), and Chuong-Dai Vo (UCSD) in conjunction with his own work and additional suggested readings. (Click students' names to read their papers. Click here for the Call for Papers and here for the reading from Professor Sakai's work.)   Faculty and students from all disciplines are invited to participate.

Lunch provided for seminar participants: Friday, February 27, 12-2 p.m. Bogardus Plaza

Lecture: Friday, February 27, 2-4 p.m., SOS B40

Naoki Sakai, Professor of Comparative Literature and Asian Studies, Cornell University, will give a talk on his current work regarding translation, nationalism, and transnationalism.

The Future of Nationalism

Poster designed by Allyson Salinger Ferrante

Naoki Sakai is the author of Translation and Subjectivity: On “Japan” and Cultural Nationalism.  His 1997 book  argues that national identity and cultural politics are in fact “all in translation.”  Sakai maintains that discrete languages exist only in relation to other, “foreign” languages, and that both the proper and the foreign are effects of a particular assumption about the capacity of “translation” to transmit identical content across otherwise insurmountable differences.  The book extends the argument to the subject of the nation and, specifically, to Japan and the West being configured as two distinct and opposing entities.  Translation and Subjectivity, in addition to Deconstructing Nationality, co-edited by Professor Sakai, and recent publications of the book series Traces all offer new ways of thinking about translation, colonialism, and comparative cultural critiques.

To speak today of nationalism, postnationalism, and transnationalism is to ask: how do these classifications determine behavior, perception and identification.   There are more and more instances of multiple, conflicting, and even threatening definitions of nationalism and its expressions.  With the rise of globalization, where is the future of nationalism heading?

The 2009 Comparative Literature Symposium is honored to welcome Professor Sakai as its guest speaker.

Click thumbnails to enlarge.


Sam Solomon gives the welcome.
Sam Solomon gives the welcome. 
Naoki Sakai listens to question.
Naoki Sakai listens to a question. 
Shaoling Ma queries the panel.
Shaoling Ma queries the panel. 
.The room is packed.
The room is packed. 
The audience deep in thought.
The audience deep in thought. 
The panel and Prof. Sakai.
The panel and Prof. Sakai. 
Allyson Ferrante and Prof. Sakai.
Allyson Ferrante and Prof. Sakai. 
Guests discuss the seminar.
Guests discuss the seminar... 
Guests enjoy the reception.
...and enjoy the reception. 

Here's what this year's graduate student participants had to say about their symposium experience:

Says Mayumo Inoue, a PhD Candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature at USC, “Professor Sakai's work, especially his book Translation and Subjectivity, has had a tremendous impact on me both intellectually and personally, and I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to test my thoughts and ideas with him and colleagues in a friendly but serious environment that was very creatively structured. The Symposium was an event, and I thank everyone in the organizing committee for making this kind of social space possible!”

Says Michelle Kim, a PhD Candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature at USC, “It was a privilege not only to have had my work read by Professor Sakai—whose ideas give structure to various issues that I've been thinking about—but also to have been part of a cross-departmental and interdisciplinary conversation at USC, in a forum that was managed totally by Comp Lit grad students!“

Says Chuong-Dai Vo, a PhD Candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature at UCSD, “I really want to thank the COLT organizing committee for making the symposium possible. I appreciated the time the keynote speaker, Naoki Sakai, and the participants took to read the papers and the comments they gave us. It made a big difference that they had already read the papers.It was great to be able to have readers from outside my field who helped me to connect my ideas to similar theoretical concerns in other fields. Having two hours to discuss the papers really gave us a chance to tease out some of the questions and issues presented in the papers in a way that's not at all possible at a conference. Being able to sit around a table also made the discussion much more of an exchange among all the participants, and not just a Q&A between the panelists and the audience.”

Director: Allyson Salinger Ferrante

Organizing Committee: Shaoling Ma, Seth Michelson, Oana Sabo, Sam Solomon, Mary Traester, and Sharon Wang


2008 Comparative Literature Symposium
USC Department of Comparative Literature

April 18-19, 2008

Keynote: Friday, April 18, 2-4 p.m., MRF 340 "Nothing of Value: Queerness, or La Mala Educación"
Lee Edelman, Fletcher Professor of English Literature, Tufts University. (Click here to read Lee Edelman's keynote address.)

Panel Discussion: Saturday, April 19, 12-3 p.m., Doheny Intellectual Commons
Lee Edelman responds to papers by Christian Hite, Lindsay Nelson, and Mary Traester. (Click students' names to read their papers.)

"But politics, construed as oppositional or not, never rests on essential identities. It centers, instead, on the figurality that is always essential to identity, and thus on the figural relations in which social identities are always inscribed." — Lee Edelman, No Future

The Politics of Figuration
Poster designed by Becky Brown

In his groundbreaking work No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (2004), Professor Lee Edelman attacks the politics of "reproductive futurism," a politics grounded in the perpetual hope of future signification embodied in the privileged form of the Child. Against hope, against the Child, and against the Future, queerness figures an oppositional politics marked by the disfiguration of identity itself through an embodied disruption of social organization. The figural burden of queerness, positioned as the embodiment of a relentlessly narcissistic, antisocial, and future-negating drive, is to embrace the force of a radical negativity linked with irony, jouissance, and, ultimately, the death drive itself.

How can an anti-politics, or politics against the "future" engage with exemplary figures? What would it mean to refuse hope, to refuse affirmation, to refuse those "congealments of identity that permit us to know and survive as ourselves? How can negativity be figured? How can figuration avoid becoming a stable position? How does the rigorous refusal of future also call into question our oft-assumed tendency to treat text or artwork as if it could be mobilized and canonized as an instrument for (future) politics? What is the implication of a politics without hope in the fields outside queer studies proper, e.g., in minority, postcolonial, and ethnic studies? What forms of community or solidarity, if any, does it imply?

The 2008 Comparative Literature Symposium is honored to welcome Professor Edelman as its keynote speaker.

Click thumbnails to enlarge.

Sam Solomon queries the panel.
Sam Solomon queries the panel. 
Lee Edelman delivers his keynote.
Lee Edelman delivers his keynote. 
The audience listens intently. =
The audience listens intently. 
.Lindsay Nelson delivers her paper.
Lindsay Nelson delivers her paper.
Christian Hite fields a question.
Christian Hite fields a question.
Mary Traester delivers her paper.
Mary Traester delivers her paper.

Organizing Committee: Marija Cetinic, Michelle Kim, Lindsay Nelson, and Oana Sabo

  • Department of Comparative Literature
  • USC Dornsife
  • 3501 Trousdale Parkway
  • Taper Hall of Humanities 161
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-0353