The Danish physicist Niels Bohr once quipped: “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” Understanding what is to come is not only an ambition for physicists; it is shared across all disciplines that, in their own way, seek to make sense of the world around us. In an attempt to rise to the challenge, we therefore ask: what does the future hold for languages, literatures and cultural studies? This is of course to ask how the texts we analyse respond to an ever-changing world and represent the future before us all. From utopian imaginings to dystopian nightmares, the shape of the future is a concern for many artists and writers in our precarious contemporary epoch, no doubt sharpened by ecological breakdown and medical emergency. These questions are not unique to the modern area, for looking to the future is an impulse that stretches back in time, even to the projections of thinkers in the ancient world.
This line of questioning is also to ask, however, what we see when we look to the future of our discipline itself. Research in the interrelated areas of languages, literatures and cultural studies has witnessed many developments in recent decades. While globalisation has enriched society in some ways, it has also presented challenges for scholars working with languages, literatures and cultures, from cultural appropriation to the erasure of minority languages and their associated histories. Emergent technologies and increased digitisation not only allow researchers to engage with literary texts and manuscripts in novel ways, but they also encourage us to question long-established norms and methods in our research. These changes show no signs of slowing down, and so we naturally begin to look beyond our present era and ask: how will we as researchers engage with these uncertain futures in our disciplines?
If you are interested in these discussions and debates, please join us on the 15th and 16th July in the Long Room Hub at Trinity College Dublin for a range of panel talks by early career researchers from across the globe. This conference is in-person only.
You can download the conference booklet here.