University at Buffalo Department of Comparative Literature Graduate Student Association
Open call for papers
“But when we sit together, close,” said Bernard, “we melt into each other with phrases. We are edged with mist.
We make an unsubstantial territory” (Virginia Woolf, The Waves).
“For heaven’s sake, Theaetetus, do you ever understand what they mean by any of these things?”
In Discourse, Figure (1971), Lyotard “takes the side of the eye” over the “prestige” of rational discourse, with a bias toward “the figure, which is not signified.” Whether the figures are those of painting, the poetic, or the human body itself, “the given” is “not to be read but rather seen . . . one does not read or understand a figure.” Lyotard’s broad response to Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of language takes up the challenge that language poses to the visible and that the visible poses to language in order to ask, “What, then, do you believe discourse to be?” He confronts an inescapable paradox: while there is no “text” to be read in the figure, it is “only from within language that one can “get to and enter” the figural.
“Go figure . . .” poses Lyotard’s question anew in order to explore the tensions, limits, and rapport between the body, image, and text, now that his “bias of the figural” is more than fulfilled. “What, then, do you believe discourse to be” in an era when the image dominates and manipulates textualities of gender, race, and political struggle in what has become a global society of the spectacle? What are the critical social, political, and ethical implications of what appears to be a growing crisis in discourse? How do we speak of “the figure”; conversely, how does the figure “speak”—for better and for worse?
We welcome submissions from graduate students at any level (MA, PhD) from a broad range of disciplines. We are especially interested in proposals from such fields as: arts and aesthetics; social and political theory; cultural and media studies; poetics, literature, psychoanalysis; and other areas of critical thought concerned with the “unsubstantial territory” of figural speech.
Those wishing to submit should send abstracts of 250-300 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by February 28, 2017. Submissions of complete papers are also invited. In addition to your abstract please include your contact information, school and department affiliation, and a brief bio statement (80-100 words). Submissions should be sent in pdf format as a single attached file.