Worlds of Words: Complexity, Creativity, and Conventionality in English Language, Literature and Culture

Pisa, 14-16 September 2017

If conventionality and creativity have always represented crucial topics for discussion in the history of linguistic, literary and cultural studies, complexity is perhaps the most outstanding feature of  the contemporary world. The great amount of relationships and connections that characterize our lives, behaviours, ideologies, and shape our social, cultural and linguistic interactions point to complexity at the same time as an object of investigation and as an analytical tool for research.

Indeed, complexity theories as developed by empirical sciences have elaborated a number of theoretical points that make up a specific paradigm of research, distinct from mainstream approaches. In more recent times, complexity issues have been raised in social and human sciences, too. Whatever the field of application, complexity is a way of looking at the world that places emphasis on the observation that apparently simple things often emerge out of  profound intricacies, that small things may make for big differences, that understanding never rests on single-factor accounts and may call instead for imaginative and creative processes, that a great number of variables mutually influence each other following non-linear paths of interaction, that systems adapt to ever changing contexts while conventions give them  temporary stability, and that meanings emerge dynamically, sometimes in unpredictable ways.

The concept of complexity thus provides an articulated framework through which cultural, literary and linguistic themes may be looked at from a new angle and by means of which new phenomena may be brought to the fore to be more finely or newly analysed. Within this context, we believe that words play a most significant role: therefore, reference to English literary, cultural and ordinary language texts as complex “worlds of words”, above and beyond the evocation of John Florio’s complex figure, will engage our audiences in a challenge that will hopefully unveil new horizons of research.

The Conference is organized in the three traditional sections of AIA conferences: literature, culture and language.