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Graduate Conference: AVATARS



Friday, April 10, 2009 - 5:00pm


Graduate Conference

Graduate Conference: AVATARS


Department of Comparative Literature, Stanford University

3rd Annual Graduate Student Conference

April 10-11, 2009 - Stanford Humanities Center (Levinthal Hall)





"Every individual human being, one may say, carries within him, potentially and prescriptively, an ideal man, the archetype of a human being, and it is his life's task to be, through all his changing manifestations, in harmony with the unchanging unity of this ideal."  - Friedrich Schiller, Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man (1795)


Who can see us?  How do we make ourselves visible, or readable, to the world at large? How do we portray or define ourselves— to ourselves? 

The Sanskrit word "avatara" means "descent"; an avatar, in Hindu theology, embodies the descent of a deity from a higher to a lower realm.  The term has recently been repurposed for use in online interaction and gaming— notably in the popular online multi-player environment Second Life— itself marking a kind of descent from the hieratic realm of theology into the de-divinized world of the Internet. The virtualization of certain areas of our societies has provided new fora for experimenting with and reflecting on the images we construct and project, the personae we mimic and adopt, and the ways in which we interact with each other. That said, virtual culture may merely highlight issues that have emerged in different forms through visual art and literature both transnationally and transtemporally: for example, the use of gender-altering pseudonyms as a method of alternative self-representation; the adoption of myriad personae as a tool in artistic creation and performance; and the veneration of icons both religious and social.