AWW-STRUCK: Creative and Critical Approaches to Cuteness

Friday 21 May 2021 (09:00-17:00)

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A thought bubble saying "aww-struck" coming from a cute drawing of a hamster

You are warmly invited to a virtual one-day seminar co-hosted by the University of Birmingham and Royal Holloway. This event is organised by Dr Isabel Galleymore (UoB) and Caroline Harris (Poetic Practice PhD researcher, RHUL).

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). 

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). 

This one-day seminar aims to advance and expand the field of cute studies in the Arts and Humanities through creative and critical presentations and discussion. It will also launch a print publication bringing together work shared in the seminar and an accompanying online exhibition.  

You can register for the day via Eventbrite