Call for papers

Joint PhD-Seminar, Copenhagen Doctoral School in Cultural Studies and

Text, Image, Sound, Space, Norwegian Researcher School in the Humanities, in collaboration with the University of Chicago.


Nov 1: The Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society

Nov 2-3: Cochrane Woods Art Center (Department of Art History)

Application deadline 

Sep. 1, 2019 

“That which, or something that, is imaginatively invented; feigned existence, event, or state of things; invention as opposed to fact.” This is the OED definition of fiction.In modern art studies, this understanding of the divide between the fictional and what is real is essential to a number of fundamental concepts such as representation, imagination, invention, plot, fantasy, and many more. Fiction, indeed, is a fundamental tenet in the basic understanding of what art is – whether as something superior to mere facts, or as something that is dispensed of conforming to the reign of the factual.

This understanding, however, seems to be increasingly challenged in today’s culture. In the realm of art, we are witnessing a rapid growth of works and events that overtly and provocatively use and display non-fictional forms, claims and materials. Documentaries, testimonies and re-mediations of existing visual, aural and textual matter play a predominant role in contemporary art, and the recording, arrangement and re-framing of allegedly “real” materials now often seem more important in art production than imaginative invention. Inversely, the social realms of information, politics and economy are getting still more dependent on forms and ideas that bear more resemblance to “spectacle” (in Guy Debord’s sense of the word) than to actually assignable facts on the ground. Information is becoming instrumental in strategic warfare agendas, political claims address affects of imaginary scenarios, assessment of bonds and stocks becomes relative to a finely tuned set of values, faith professions and expectations, and so on.

In this situation, as the neatly delineated “realms” of the invented and the factual become increasingly entangled and blurred, our perception of fiction also changes. When fiction loses its distinction, either everything becomes fiction, or the idea of fiction itself eventually becomes irrelevant. 

With this seminar, we will address the changing perception of fiction and the fictive from three different angles. We will assess and discuss a number of traditional understandings of fiction and their underpinnings and premises, on theoretical, methodological and analytical levels. Secondly, we will examine a number of recent cultural objects and practices, where the divide between the fictive and the real is contested, negotiated or recast. And finally, we will look at some examples of how the conceptual and institutional outline of fiction have operated in an array of historical discourses and art practices. Participants are encouraged to submit paper proposals in any field of research with relevance to the understanding of fiction and its contemporary transformations.

Taking these perspectives as a starting point, participants are invited to reflect on notions of fiction, fictionality, fact, reality and the real and how these pertain to their dissertation subjects empirically, analytically or epistemologically.

Keynote speakers

Patrick Jagoda, University of Chicago :

Sianne Ngai, University of Chicago:

Anna Kornbluh, University of Illinois, Chicago:

TBLR participants (confirmed)

Ina Blom, University of Chicago/University of Oslo, Knut Ove Eliassen, NTNU Norwegian University of Science and Technology; and Frederik Tygstrup, University of Copenhagen.

Application and admission

PhD-students from all participant institutions are invited to attend and present their work. Fill in the application form and submit a short draft of your paper (300 words) by September 1, 2019. If the total number of applications from TBLR and Copenhagen University exceeds 20, a selection will be made on the basis of relevance, previous participation in the TBLR program, affiliation and status of PhD training. 10 places are reserved for graduate students from the University of Chicago. Beyond that, early applications will be prioritized. 


The program will consist of keynote lectures (45-minute presentation, 45-minute discussion), paper presentations and reading sessions. Student papers will be presented in a conventional conference setting (15-minute presentation, 15-minute discussion). In addition, there will be text reading sessions. Participants can choose between presenting their own research or a theoretical text for a reading session.


Reading materials will be made available to registered participants through a Dropbox download link no later than a month before the seminar. The syllabus will be announced on by end of May, 2019

Working language



2/5 ECTS. Participation and presentation will result in 2 ECTS, working over and submitting and editing version of the presentation (10-12 pages) after the seminar, will yield an additional 3 ECTS. Signed and authorized course diplomas will be bestowed upon each PhD student participant on completion of the course.


PhD students are expected to cover their own travel expenses. SAS has direct flights to Chicago from Stockholm and Copenhagen airports – these are generally the quickest connections.


Hotel reservations must be made by the participants themselves. Up to five nights will be reimbursed (up to 200 US$ per night) for students from the institutions participating in TBLR.

We strongly recommend booking hotels in Chicago’s vibrant Downtown/Loop area, where you have easy access to the best Chicago has to offer in terms of architecture, cultural institutions, restaurants and nightlife – not to mention the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline. A 20-minute Uber, Lyft or taxi ride will take you to the Hyde Park campus. Hotels in Hyde Park can also be found, but this is a much quieter area, and perhaps less interesting if you also want to experience the city. Chicago is enormous and traffic can be slow, so areas further away are not recommended.


Dinners on Friday and Saturday night for all participants will be covered by TBLR. Canteen lunches on Friday, Saturday and Sunday must be covered by each participant.


Contact Knut Ove Eliassen, Fredrik Tygstrup or Ina Blom