“The one test of the really weird is simply this—whether or not there be excited in the reader a profound sense of dread, and of contact with unknown spheres and powers.”
—H.P. Lovecraft, “Supernatural Horror in Literature” (1927)
“This whole world’s wild at heart and weird on top.”
—David Lynch, Wild at Heart (1990)
For H.P. Lovecraft, the weird conveys “a subtle attitude of awed listening, as if for the beating of black wings or the scratching of outside shapes and entities on the known universe’s utmost rim.” Taking its cue from Lovecraft’s enduringly influential conceptualization, this conference examines and broadens the notion of weirdness towards an ecology and geography of the weird as a new field of theoretical and practical resonances. What we call The American Weird comprises not only an aesthetics evoked by literary practices or films from the genres of the gothic or horror, but also by other forms of cultural expression, such as music, sculpture, photography, and performance art. The conference theme also aims to address new theoretical perspectives on humanity’s relation to the world, perspectives that have recently been proposed by what might be called the “new demonologists” (e.g. Graham Harman, Eugene Thacker, and others).
Against the backdrop of new ontologies and epistemologies of the weird, the following questions will form the conceptual backbone of The American Weird: What are the ecologies and geographies of the weird today, and how are they conceived, perceived, and reworked? Which strands of contemporary critical theory and philosophy have engaged in a dialogue with the discourses of and on the weird, and what is specifically “American” in The American Weird? If weirdness is more than a mere index of parody and/or subversion, how might one conceive of a politics or an ethics of the weird?
Visual Design by Keith Tilford, http://www.keithtilford.com