CFP – Debt in History

Department of English

University of Toronto Scarborough, Canada

18-19 May 2018

At a Q&A that followed a Toronto screening of Little Men (2016), a film about two families’ battle over a lease and its impact on the lives of its central protagonists, director Ira Sachs reflected on the modern-day struggle of many families to remain in the middle class. Sachs’s film speaks to the primacy of economics in discourse. Recent scholarship has shown the value of reading film and literature economically. The enormously influential work of David Graeber, Mary Poovey, Margot C. Finn, Julian Hoppit, Sandford Borins, Audrey Jaffe, Margaret Atwood, and others have opened up new avenues for thinking about money and the humanities. This conference aims both to consolidate and to advance criticism in literature, film, philosophy, and cultural studies by attending to some incarnations of debt and analyzing their wider implications.

Abstracts of 250 words (with 50-word biographies) for 20-minute papers are invited on any aspect of economics and the humanities, as are proposals for panels of three or four papers on clearly defined themes. Submissions on creative projects that link research and creative writing and/or performance are warmly encouraged. Selected proceedings of academic work will be published in a special issue of the peer-reviewed e-journal Literature Compass.

Possible themes and topics:

  • Capitalism
  • Capital
  • Inheritance
  • Faith
  • Credibility
  • Chance
  • Marxism
  • Interest
  • Commerce
  • Trade
  • Liberalism
  • Finances
  • Housing
  • Rent
  • Mortgage
  • Banks
  • Credit
  • Debit
  • Ranking
  • Poverty
  • Labour
  • Forgiveness
  • Cash
  • Stocks
  • Forgery
  • Political Economy
  • Colonialism
  • Wealth

The first deadline for submissions is 1 August 2017. Details of keynote speakers, roundtables, performances, and film screenings will be announced, as they become available, on our conference Facebook page ( and on Twitter @DebtinHistory. Queries, proposals, and suggestions for collaboration may be directed to Dr Tom Ue at This project is supported by the Department of English at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship.


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