Failure: A One-Day Symposium

Sussex University • 28 September 2016

Fail Better samuel beckettAs a supplement to the publication of Excursions Vol. 7, Excursions Journal is holding a one-day interdisciplinary symposium on the theme of ‘Failure’.

The concept of failure is gaining traction as a subject of critical attention. Our recent history has been defined by significant and far-reaching failures: from the failure of the U.S. and U.K. governments to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, to the more recent collapse of global financial markets. In the wake of events such as these, the viability of old models of ‘success’ and ‘failure’ has been called into question. Can we resituate failure as not merely an absence, a lack of success, but rather as a category in its own right? Whether figured as a fundamental aspect of modernity, a distinct aesthetic for artistic production, or, as the queer theorist Jack Halberstam has argued, a radical alternative to the restrictive, success-oriented norms of our society, we are faced with the possibility that failure might have a value of its own.

Gertrude Stein

“A real failure does not need an excuse. It is an end in itself.”

— Gertrude Stein, Four in America

“Under certain circumstances failing, losing, forgetting, unmaking, undoing, unbecoming, not knowing may in fact offer more creative, more cooperative, more surprising ways of being in the world.”

— Jack Halberstam, The Queer Art of Failure


How might an understanding of failure help us to better understand our present moment? To reinterpret our narratives of the past? What does it mean to, in Beckett’s words, ‘Fail again. Fail better’? Excursions Journal are seeking submissions of 3,000-5,000 words from a range of disciplines that engage with conceptions of failure in its varied forms. These could include, but are not limited to:

  • Responses to failure in literature, film, art and theatre
  • Failure as a frame to reinterpret the past: historical narrative, critical failure and canon formation
  • Economic, political and national failures
  • The place of failure within systems and institutions e.g. academia, the scientific community
  • Failures of masculinity and femininity, the role of failure in queer theory
  • Trauma and failures of memory, cultural and personal amnesia
  • Failures of the body, narratives of disease, disability, ageing and mental health

Please send 500 word abstracts and a brief biography to by 14 August 2016.

Excursions Journal is a peer reviewed, interdisciplinary journal, showcasing innovative and high quality postgraduate research, run by doctoral researchers at the University of Sussex. ‘Failure’ will be Vol. 7, No. 1.

Source: cfp | call for papers (via Martin Paul Eve).

1 Comment

  1. I look forward to this volume when it is released. Failure is a concept, explicit or otherwise, that comes into play in some of the writing I am working on. As a queer person who feels alienated from any sense of queer community much of the time, I would argue that “failure” is a policed concept, especially with respect to trans identities. Failure to fail in a way that is validated is not success, it is a cancellation of self worth.


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