Common Room: On the Road

Płock, 19-20.10.2018

The name of the annual Common Room conferences organised by the State University of Applied Sciences in Płock, Poland refers to the literary salon held in London by Stefan and Franciszka Themerson, an extraordinary couple of Polish-born artists and intellectuals, during the years 1957- 1959. It hosted numerous scientists, academics, artists and literary figures and was the site of unique lectures, presentations, artistic evenings, concerts and discussions. It is the intention of the organizer to recreate the truly interdisciplinary spirit of what the Themersons defined as a “friendly meeting place and a forum for the exchange of ideas.”
This year’s sixth edition of the Common Room conference is devoted to being ON THE ROAD that can be perceived as a physical, spiritual or emotional experience. For some travelling may be an end in itself, a meaningful experience since the road secures them with direction and purpose. For others, however, it may just result in aimless wandering that can become a source of suffering and disappointment. Travelling promises the lure of freedom and escape beyond the borders of familiarity, brings the thrill of the unknown, but it can also offer a gift of self-knowledge. People have been on the road for centuries and their experiences have been reflected in diverse texts of culture from Homer, through Swift and Cervantes, to fantasy novels and road movies. It seems, however, that journey acquires a special meaning today when our capacity of swift mobility entails the construction of new identities, which Zygmunt Bauman labelled as: a stroller, a tourist, a vagabond, and a player. They all share one common feature: being constantly on the move in search of unattainable postmodern identity.
Stefan Themerson in his Adventures of Peddy Bottom, illustrated beautifully by his wife Franciszka, also had his protagonist set off on a journey. Peddy Bottom, who resembles a human being, but also a fish and a dog, searches for his own identity and this search takes him on a journey. On the way Peddy has numerous adventures and meets many extraordinary characters who engage him in conversations that touch upon philosophy, language and logic. The book addresses both children and adults and invites its readers to travel along with Peddy Bottom to reject underlying presumptions and uncover the truth by the Socratic method of asking questions.
Drawing our inspiration from the Themersons’ works, we invite contributions from all researchers interested in exploring the phenomenon of a broadly understood question of being ON THE ROAD. The papers may address the following as well as related topics:
– the road and the journey as archetypes; the significance of the trope of travel in modernity and postmodernity;
– the aesthetics and conventions of the road novel/film; picaresque narratives;
– travel literature; travellers and travel in fine arts, music, comic books, theatre and film;
– interpretations and representations of a journey as discovery, rebellion, escapism, disorientation, quest, pilgrimage, survival, etc.;
– journey as a road to self-knowledge and understanding of the Other; journey as a means of social critique and/or a countercultural experience; famous travellers and their experiences;
– journeys in history: frontiers, expansionism, diaspora and migration;
– hybrid “travelling cultures”; “routes” vs. “roots”; journeys and migrations and the concept of centre and periphery; in-between and transnational spaces in culture;
– women on the road: behind the wheel or in the back seat?/ transgressive and victimised female
– human – machine interface within the context of travel; cultural and social aspects of violence and aggression on the road; fetishisation of means of transport; the question of time travel;
– digital nomads; the place and role of travel in digital media and social media;
– social, economic, political and environmental implications of travel, tourism/ post-tourism, new means of transport, mobility, migration, etc.; socio-economic and/or ideological dimension of spaces “in motion”, transit spaces, etc.;
– the road and the journey as metaphors in pedagogy, psychology, coaching, philosophy, theology and other fields.
Since it is our goal to run the conference in the spirit of the Themersonian Common Room, which was so interdisciplinary and versatile that it escaped facile categorization, we cordially invite not only specialists in philology, literature studies, cultural studies, linguistics and translation studies but also representatives of other academic disciplines such as sociology, pedagogy, psychology, philosophy, history, ethnography, arts studies, etc. to join the discussion.
The conference is part of the annual Themersons Festival (the festival’s website:, commemorating and celebrating the creative output of Stefan, who was born in Płock, and his wife Franciszka. All delegates will be able to participate in the numerous events of the festival including workshops, concerts, exhibitions, theatrical performances and film screenings. All the key information concerning Płock, the Themersons Festival, this year’s Common Room Conference and its previous editions as well as useful travel and accommodation tips can be found on our website:
The conference languages will be Polish and English. We welcome submissions for papers in English or Polish from experienced researchers as well as graduate students, PhD candidates or anyone with a keen interest in the theme of the conference. Abstracts in English or Polish (max. 250 words) along with the title of the proposed paper, keywords and short information about the author should be submittedonline by 25.09.2018 using the registration form at: The website can also be used to contact the Conference Organising Committee and send your enquiries. You can also contact us directly at:
Notifications of acceptance will be sent in the quickest possible time and the approved participants will be notified by 30.09.2018 at the latest. It is intended that all the papers presented at this conference will be eligible for publication. Information on our previous publications can be found on our website.

The conference fee is as follows:
– early registration (until 05.08.2018): 200 PLN (50 euros). The fee must be paid by 05.08.2018.
– regular registration (after 05.08.2018): 280 PLN (70 euros). The deadline for paying the fee is 03.10.2018.
Money transfers in Poland (PKO BP SA):
Account Number: 46 1020 3974 0000 5102 0084 8077 International money transfers:
Account Holder: PWSZ Płock,
International Bank Account Number (IBAN):
PL 46 1020 3974 0000 5102 0084 8077
Code Bic (SWIFT address): BPKOPLPW
Please make sure that your name and the name of the conference: “Common Room” are included in the transfer description section. Should you require an invoice, please fill in the “Invoicing address” section in the Registration Form.

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