2019 PAAS Conference

XXXI Annual Conference of Polish Association for American Studies
October 23-25, 2019, University of Opole, Poland

The Sound of Silence in American Literature, Culture and Politics

The XXXI Annual Polish Association for American Studies conference included fifty-four speakers and seventy scholars in total from the following countries: Poland, the United States of America, Israel, Taiwan, South Korea, Germany, Spain, Ukraine, Greece, Portugal and Italy. Keynote addresses were delivered by: Professor King-Kok Cheung, University of California, Los Angeles; Professor Dominika Ferens, University of Wrocław and Professor Jadwiga Maszewska, University of Łódź. The American Embassy in Warsaw graciously supported the conference with a grant and the American Consulate in Cracow sent their delegation led by Ms. Amy Steinmann, the United States Consul.

The thematic focus of the conference fell on cadences of speech and silence in American literature, culture and politics. In one of its significations captured by the 1964 Simon and Garfunkel song, “the sound of silence” stands not only for thwarted communication, inability of people to communicate, the dissonance between speech and silence, but also alternative, non-verbal means of communication, hinting at a whole myriad of possibilities that the original curse of silence does not immediately suggest. Manifold lines of investigation into the conference topic illustrated Susan Sonntag’s observation that “silence is never neutral,” including variations upon the following research themes:

  • communication and dissonance traced in communication,
  • verbal and non-verbal representation,
  • silence as an alternative means of communication,
  • suppression of the voice and reclaiming of the voice,
  • the unspeakable,
  • the subaltern,
  • the significance of speech and silence in American Ethnic Literature,
  • the Postmodern denigration and appraisal of various senses,
  • gender studies related topics,
  • submerged narratives,
  • storytelling,
  • reading between the lines,
  • innuendo,
  • shame,
  • affect,
  • survivor studies,
  • trauma studies,
  • word,
  • image,
  • sign,
  • the aural and the auditory versus the visual,
  • transnational studies related topics,
  • narratology,
  • mnemonic techniques in oral poetry,
  • rhetoric,
  • the significance of speech and silence in public discourse and negotiations.

The conference was held on the grounds of the main University building, Collegium Maius, University of Opole, in the very city center of Opole, just a stone’s throw away from the XIII century-town-hall square, the Piast Tower, all major monuments and city attractions. Conference participants had an opportunity to further interact during a conference reception on the opening day and at a banquet on the second day of the conference.

Post-conference articles were published as a special issue of the Res Rhetorica journal: Rhetoric of Silence in American Studies 7 (4) 2020.

The Organizing Committee:
Dr hab. Klara Szmańko, Prof. UO, Chief Organizer
Dr hab. Katarzyna Molek-Kozakowska, Prof. UO Co-Organizer
Prof. dr hab. Ryszard W. Wolny, Director of the Institute of Literatures
Dr Tomasz Lebiecki

Dr Tomasz Gadzina
Dr hab. Tadeusz Lewandowski, Prof. UO
Dr Sławomir Kuźnicki
Kamil Pacuda, M.A.