The Popularity of Words and Music

22-24 November 2018

Haus der Universität at Heinrich-Heine-University in Düsseldorf, Germany


The Forum of the International Association for Word and Music Studies (WMAF) will explore the ‘popular’ in words and music for its 5th Biennial Conference. Popularity and the ‘popular’ are phenomena of vast societal, political, and (inter-)medial proportions. From early approaches such as Adorno’s and Horkheimer’s heteronomous capitalist criticism to the less consumer and more ‘prosumer’-orientated perspectives proposed by John Fiske and Henry Jenkins during the 1980s, the popular remains an ambivalent topic. Niklas Luhmann’s theorems that came to be used widely in the ‘pop theory’ of the 1990s re-emphasized the study of the popular as a key field of inquiry in critical discourse. bell hooks’s work in cultural studies during the 2000s opened the field of popular culture anew, analyzing it as a politically charged ‘powerful site for intervention, challenge and change.’


Studies in intermediality and Word and Music Studies have also proven to offer productive ‘popular’ approaches to musico-literary experimentation. Continuing in this vein, our conference asks: What is the “popular” and what role(s) does music inhabit in its construction? What is the function of the popular and is ‘pop’ a system? How can popularity be explained in certain historical and political contexts, including how race, class, gender, and ethnicity impact an understanding of the ‘popular’? What of the popularity of words? How do they interact with music at particular times and throughout various media? Keeping in mind the diverse WMAF membership and scholarship we are also interested in approaches that consider popular culture within the framework of race, class, gender, and ethnicity.


We invite early researchers to submit proposals for presentations and/or panels that engage with the popular, using a variety of methodologies and perspectives on words and music. These may include but are not strictly limited to:


– Words and/or music in the context of ‘pop-theory’

– Politics of the popular: negotiations of race, class, gender, ethnicity

– The popularity of folklore and myth

– Popular music genres, videos, and mash-ups

– Popular from postcolonial perspectives

– Quoting, paraphrasing, and ‘retrofication’ as marketing strategies

– Aesthetics of performance

– The popularity of intermediality itself


Please send abstracts of no longer than 250 words, preferably with the subject “WMAF 2018” to: thomas.gurke@hhu.de. Individual paper presentations will be 20 minutes long to be followed by 10 minutes of discussion. The conference language will be English. More information about the Word and Music Association Forum and about this conference will be posted on the organization website: www.wmaforum.org.


Deadline for receiving abstracts: 31 May 2018 (Acceptance letters: 31 July 2018)

Any questions should be directed to the local Academic Committee:

Thomas Gurke & Susan Winnett at thomas.gurke@hhu.de.