Literature, Politics and Aesthetics
Binghamton University (SUNY), March 13-14, 2015
Keynote: Ann Stoler, Willy Brandt Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology and Historical Studies (The New School)
Faculty Keynote: Julia Walker, Assistant Professor of Art History (Binghamton University)
Decay calls upon a variety of meanings. It can be defined as decomposition over time, or as site of decomposed material; as the processional decrease in material magnitude; or as a displacement of organic power. Decay places and takes place. Decay may be erosion, both from outside and from within. Decay negotiates, monumentalizes, ossifies and ruins. The eroded sites invoke ludic aspects of decay’s simultaneous presence and absence. Its discourse draws attention to spatio-temporal flux, and further renders discontinuities, creases and folds at decay’s various sites. The discourse of decay centers in ideal conceptions of corporeal, aesthetic, political, and cultural sites. Decay can be manifest in death, disease, contamination, transgression. Ruins, monuments, bodies, borders, texts all serve as its locales.
The topic of decay has been taken up in various artistic and literary productions (whether in recent exhibitions of modern art, in avant-garde movements, or in literature of the fin de siècle), as well as in theoretical readings that have implications for various disciplinary practices.
We invite talks/papers as well as artistic productions that deal with but are not limited to the following topics:
Politics of decay: Is decay a process occurring over time or an instantaneous Event? How do we define decay? To what extent does decay reveal something of the subject-object relationship? In what ways might notions of decay destabilize existent frameworks of representation? How might one locate the various sites of decay?
Corporeality and decay: How does decay enter and change the notion and the borders of the body? What are some sites of transgression? How does this border crossing happen: through disease, contamination and death? What happens after death? Is it possible to contain or stop this process?
Memory/ forgetting and decay: How or does the decay of memory result in the loss of identity? What about dementia? Is decay becoming? What about schizophrenia, or a degradation of the dialectic of the totality and dialectic of becoming? What is the connection to the sites of memory and monumentalization? What about the “recycling” of monuments? How are sites of decay related to the feelings of nostalgia?
Environment and decay: What is the “nature” of decay? How does decay help define the forms of life? How do we conceptualize waste and wastefulness versus consumption? How does decay affect our lived and built environment? How do we think of decay as working against the grain of history?
Aesthetics and Decay: What is our reaction (repulsion or attraction) to decay as an aesthetic? Is aesthetics “contagious”? What do we make of the notion of “decay of aesthetics” in avant-garde? What about the notions of “art for art’s sake” or the so-called “degenerate art”? Is there a decay of aesthetics in post-war places? Is there an element of decay in the passing of fashion and trends?
Literature and decay: How does decay destabilize theories of representation? What about erosion of the corpus/body of works/canon? How does decay counter master narratives, including, among others, the narrative of decay of “civilization”? How do we read decadence in literature (Silver Age vs. Golden Age in Roman literature) or literature of the fin de siècle, to give a few examples.
Translation and Decay: What is the relationship of translation to language? Is decay mediation? Is the translator an agent of contamination? Is translation a site of contamination? How and why does a translation decay over time? Is it necessary for translations to decay in order for the original to continue?
Please send an abstract of at least 250 words detailing your proposal for a twenty-minute presentation or artistic submissions along with your C.V. to firstname.lastname@example.org by January 23rd, 2015.