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AWW-STRUCK: Creative and Critical Approaches to Cuteness

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A day of discussion and creative presentations mapping cute studies in the Arts and Humanities, with an exhibition hosted by Poem Atlas.

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aww-struck adj. the state of being overcome, surrounded or inspired by cuteness; to be filled with wonder at cute persons, nonhuman animals or objects (often edible); rendered speechless; unable to resist the impulse to coo or to stroke (sometimes leading to feelings of cute aggression).

Why is Hello Kitty missing a mouth? What makes us turn to videos of cuddly bunnies to ‘wash out our eyes’ after a stressful experience? Why does it sound disparaging to label something ‘cute’ and how might cuteness be reclaimed and reimagined?

Sianne Ngai explains in her landmark work, Our Aesthetic Categories, how a ‘surprisingly wide spectrum of feelings, ranging from tenderness to aggression’ can be provoked by such ‘unthreatening commodities’ as a squishy frog-shaped sponge. While cuteness might be understood as affiliated with pop culture, the emerging field of Cute Studies has challenged the distinction by exploring representations in art and literature. Attentive to its associations with ‘intimate address (lyric)...[and] unusually small, lapidary, object-like texts’, Ngai suggests avant-garde poetry might be theorised as an embodiment of cuteness. Elsewhere, Lori Merish has explored revealing intersections between cuteness, race and class in Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye. While some scholars have drawn attention to the problems of cuteness, others have outlined opportunities for productively widening our kinship circles to include nonhumans (Kalnay) or employing the concept in analysing pre-industrial-era works (Boyle and Kau).

We warmly invite you to a virtual day seminar which aims to advance and expand this field through creative and critical presentations and discussion. AWW-STRUCK will run alongside an online exhibition of object and visual poems hosted by Poem Atlas, and the launch of a print publication bringing together these exhibits and work shared in the seminar. Please register here on Eventbrite.

Topics we are likely to discuss on the day include, but are not limited to:

  • Literary, visual and cinematic representations of cuteness
  • Cuteness and animal studies, gender studies, race studies, queer studies, disability studies
  • The culture of childhood, ‘Disneyfication’ and kawaii
  • Commodification and cuteness
  • Cuteness and affect including aggression, sympathy, nostalgia.
  • Counter aesthetic categories including the grotesque and the sublime
  • Futures of cuteness

We will be announcing our exciting line-up of creative and critical presentations by the end of April. Abstracts have been reviewed by Dr Isabel Galleymore (UoB) and Caroline Harris (RHUL).

There will be opportunities within the day for attendees to discuss not only the presentations, their themes and questions, but ‘What next for AWW-STRUCK?’. We would love to hear what you would like to see happening next in this relatively new field.

To get in touch with us, please email awwstruck.info@gmail.com.

For more information and updates follow @cutestudies on Twitter and visit our website: awwstruckseminar.wordpress.com.

We look forward to seeing and hearing from you.

Isabel and Caroline

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