Queen University Belfast
15-17 September 2020
Keywords: Accidental, arbitrary, incidental, slapdash, hit-or-miss, unplanned, unintended (e.g. consequences), unexpected, unanticipated, unpredictable, contingent, volatility, excitement, wonder, fantasy, imagination, creativity, serendipity.
Chance encounters, unforeseen opportunities, and impulsive decisions play a bigger role in our life and work than we wish to acknowledge. Is reading not always random to some extent? It is only retrospectively, in shifting scale from the individual to social or perspective from reading to interpreting, that randomness becomes regularity and can get explained away as purpose and design.
Randomness and chance play a leading role in historical accounts, in narratives of war and battles, victory and defeat, in biographies and travelogues, in narratives of arrivals, encounters and departures. They resurface in stories, setting characters onto a course or hurtling them into the great unknown, towards their fate. People’s bookshelves, readers’ memories, and second-hand bookshops can produce a similar, puzzling – even dizzying – sense of randomness.
Fortunes of literary works and theory are not immune to the dictates of chance. What are the forces that get literary works published, translated, circulated locally or internationally, and nominated for and winning literary prizes? When do managed search algorithms fail and serendipitous connections appear? How do chance encounters …read more