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[Conference CFP] Jewish Ghosts: Haunting and the Haunted in Literature and Culture

Conference sponsored by
CUNY Graduate Center and Columbia University
365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016
October 30th and 31st, 2019

Call for Papers:
Deadline: April 28th, 2019

Haunting – the uncanny, the past returned, the ontological in-between – is a fundamentally disturbing mode of existence. It can result from grief and loss, indicating improperly resolved mourning or the persistence of trauma’s effects. It can signal problems in the transmission of memory or crimes left unaddressed. As ghosts, it can symbolize society’s others, people who have been wronged by history, who have been forgotten or who seem to threaten the world order. All of these circumstances prevent individuals, places and times from retaining tidy boundaries or transparent, singular definitions. Though menacing, haunting can also be helpful in forming deep connections to the past and to identity or serve as a metaphor of the need for closure.

Throughout literature, art and culture, haunting is tapped to figure a number of topics. It seems to recur in works by or referring to Jews. This conference will explore the many renditions of haunting which appear in the Jewish imaginary and in the imagination of Jews. What do these specters, haunted spaces and ghostly objects symbolize? How do they help or harm Jewish identity? What do they indicate about Jewish concepts of time and history? Has the shape of these Jewish hauntings altered over time? How might haunting act as a critical lens for understanding the Jewish experience?

This conference aims at an inter-disciplinary look at this trope as it arises in a number of fields from the 19th century to the present day, including history, art, literature, religious studies and psychology. Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Inheritance, heirlooms and the transmission of memory
  • Affect in Holocaust narratives
  • Dybbuks
  • Haunting Jews and anti-Semitism
  • Jewish mourning practices
  • Grief and melancholia
  • Palimpsests in photographs, places and languages
  • Jewish memory and identity
  • Exile, diaspora  and multiple homelands
  • Translation and multi-lingualism

Sessions will consist of 3-4 presentations of approximately 20 minutes followed by time for discussion. Please send proposals by April 28th, 2019 to Charlotte Gartenberg and Rebecca Pollack at To submit as an individual, please send a title, abstract (200-300 words) and short biography. To submit panel proposals, please send abstracts and titles for each presentation, a title and description of the panel (200-300 words), and names and biographies of all participants (including a discussant).