Conference: Stranger Things: Rethinking Defamiliarization in Literature and Visual Culture

Conference Stranger Things

Dates: 12-13 December 2019
Venue: Amsterdam, Roeterseiland REC A 1.02 (12 December); Amsterdam, NIAS Seminar Room, Korte Spinhuissteeg 3 (13 December)
Open to: PhD Candidates and RMa Students, OSL members will have first access
Credits: 1-2 EC (depending on attending 1 or 2 days)
Organizers: Dr Nilgun Bayraktar (California College of the Arts; NIAS) and Dr Alberto Godioli (University of Groningen)
Please specify which day(s) you want to attend when you register (see below).

The notion of defamiliarization is strikingly undertheorized; when it comes to systematic definitions of this concept, not much progress has been made since Russian Formalist Viktor Shklovsky’s work on ostranenie in literature in the early 20th century, or German playwright Bertolt Brecht’s theorization of Verfremdungseffekt in the 1930s to describe theatrical devices that break audiences’ passive absorption in theatrical illusion.

Defamiliarizing practices today play a key role in contemporary artworks engaging with highly topical issues, such as migration, climate change or the rise of right-wing populist discourses. Whether we are dealing with retro-futuristic dystopias, films breaking the fourth wall, or darkly humorous cartoons, defamiliarization can be an effective tool for political activation – one based on formal innovation, rather than on content or on superficial emotional engagement.

But how exactly can we distinguish between different forms of defamiliarization? How can we investigate its effects on the reader/viewer? How does defamiliarization relate to neighboring notions such as the weird, the eerie, or the uncanny? During this two-day conference, 12 scholars working on defamiliarization across media will tackle these questions. The conference will also feature a panel with artists whose work addresses these issues.

Confirmed keynote speakers: Prof. Caroline Levine (Cornell University; Skype lecture and discussion) and Prof. Dr. Sandra Ponzanesi (Utrecht University).

Confirmed speakers: Dr Nilgun Bayraktar (California College of the Arts / NIAS); Prof. Dr. Maria Boletsi (UvA / Leiden); Prof. Dr. Esther Pereen, Lora Sariaslan (UvA); Dr Alberto Godioli, Dr Christian Kirchmeier, Dr Florian Lippert, Prof. Dr. Annie van den Oever, Prof. Dr. Pablo Valdivia, Ruby de Vos (RUG); Alaa Minawi.


Programme Day 1 (13:30 – 17:30, Roeterseiland REC A 1.02)

  • 13:30 – 14:00 Welcome
  • 14:00 – 15:30 Keynote 1, Prof. Caroline Levine, ‘Defamiliarization for a Sustainable Planet’ (Skype lecture and discussion; abstract available here)
  • 15:30 – 16:00 Coffee break
  • 16:00 – 17:30 Panel 1 (papers + discussion)

Programme Day 2 (10:00-17:30, NIAS Seminar Room, Korte Spinhuissteeg 3)

  • 10:00 – 11:30 Keynote 2, Prof. dr. Sandra Ponzanesi, ‘Strangers in Paradise: Migrant Figurations in Media Culture’ (abstract available here)
  • 11:30 – 11:45 Coffee break
  • 11:45 – 13:15 Panel 2 (papers + discussion)
  • 13:15 – 14:00 Lunch break (offered by NIAS)
  • 14:00 – 15:30 Panel 3 (papers + discussion)
  • 15:30 – 16:00 Coffee break
  • 16:00 – 17:30 Panel 4 (conversation with Alaa Minawi)

More details and a complete programme will follow soon


Credits: 1 EC can be obtained by attending 1 day of the conference and writing a critical review of one chosen session (500 words, +/- 10%). 2 EC can be obtained by attending both days, and writing a critical review about two sessions (one per day; 500 words per session, +/- 10%). Critical reviews should be submitted via email to by Monday 6 January 2020, 23:59.