The Tropes of Theory
Organisiert von Zaal Andronikashvili (ZfL), Susanne Strätling (FU Berlin) Annual workshop of the Research Committee on Literary Theory of the International Comparative Literature
Organisiert von Zaal Andronikashvili (ZfL), Susanne Strätling (FU Berlin)
Annual workshop of the Research Committee on Literary Theory of the International Comparative Literature Association
Literary theories maintain a rather ambiguous relationship to literature, meandering between participation and alienation. On the one hand, they attempt to assume a neutral, abstract meta-position, for which the dogma of disinterestedness has been decisive since Kant. It presupposes an analytical aloofness to the object of reading, freeing itself from the entanglements of an involved reading and placing the text as an object of knowledge at safe distance. This holds true even where theoretical approaches claim particular proximity to the poetic text (as, for example, in strategies of close reading) or where they take into account the impact of affects as an essential element of both writing and reading literature (as, for instance, in empathy aesthetics [Einfühlungsästhetik]).
On the other hand, literature and literary theory are so intimately entwined that they can hardly be neatly separated. This close bond is not only exploited by hybrid genres such as autotheory or autosociobiography, which have turned literature into a field of artistic research and theory formation. An even larger aspect of this connection is the irreducible literariness of theory itself. We witness this poeticity of theoretical thought on several levels, be it the narrativization of theory, the long tradition of embedding theoretical treatises situationally, for instance, in the form of travel essays, or the extent to which theories operate with tropes and figures.
This literariness of the theory does not only concern the overtly metaphorical (and therefore sometimes castigated as “crypto-jargon”) vocabulary of poststructuralism. It extends to all theoretical reasoning, even in its sincerest attempts at avoiding any figurativity or the semantic shifts of rhetorical alieniloquium in order to meet scientific standards of precision and analytical rigor. One thinks, for instance, of keywords such as “unraveling“ (Verfransung) in the descriptive and analytical theoretical language of Critical Theory, of the “circulation of social energy” in New Historicism, or the ambiguous notion of “evolution” in Formalism. Furthermore, as Blumenberg has shown in his “theory of non-logicity”, basic concepts of literary theory such as “reading” and “readability” are fraught with an intellectual history that goes back to antiquity as pre-conceptual instruments of cognition in the natural and technical sciences.
The workshop builds on the groundwork of this metaphorological history of science but focuses on the field of conceptualization in literary theory since theoretical metaphors in literary theory remain a largely unexplored area to this day. Crucial questions in this regard are: Which tropes does literary scholarship employ to develop its theoretical language? What functions do different figures of speech assume as theoretical figures of thought? What kind of knowledge on poetics do they confer? How do the demands of objectivity and evidence in theory collide or, possibly, collaborate with the confusing imagery of figurative speech? Does a heightened awareness of tropical language in literary theory reshape our understanding of the difference between theoretical (as purportedly non-figurative) and poetic (as figurative) texts?
Friday, 20 October
10:00 | Welcome
10:15-12:15 | Panel I: Figuring Theory
Chair: Susanne Strätling (Freie Universität Berlin)
Robert Young (New York University): Theory as Trope
Divya Dwivedi (Indian Institute of Technology): Theory and the Trope of Reading
Rok Benčin (Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, ZRC SAZU): The Miracle of Analogy and the Displacement of Concepts
Robert Stockhammer (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München): Synecdoche and Representative Anecdote (Kenneth Burke) in Theory
12:15 | Lunch
13:30-15:30 | Panel II: Mining the History of Tropology
Chair: Natalya Bekhta (Tampere University)
Amy Li Xiaofan (University College London): Illumination: The Solar Trope in Literary Theory from a Comparative Perspective
Susanne Strätling (Freie Universität Berlin): Poetics as Energetics? Trajectories of Modern Literary Theory
Anne Duprat (Université de Picardie-Jules Verne): Elegance, or: How Stylish Can Literary Theory Be?
Maya Kesrouany (New York University Abu Dhabi): Figural Hauntings in Contemporary Arabic Literary Theory
15:30 | Coffee Break
16:00-17:30 | Panel III: Reading Tropes
Chair: Maya Kesrouany (New York University Abu Dhabi)
Stefan Willer (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin): Ties: Metaphors of Postcritique
Woosung Kang (Seoul National University): Reading Freud Reading: How Blindness Drives Theories
Marco Caracciolo (Ghent University): Tropes for Complexity in Literary Theory
Saturday, 21 October
10:00-11:30 | Panel IV: Politics of Tropes
Chair: Anne Duprat (Université de Picardie-Jules Verne)
Ivana Perica (Leibniz Center for Literary and Cultural Research): Polysemy of ‚the Political‘
Davide Giuriato (Universität Zürich): Drastic: Breakdown of Tropes? (Jankelevitch, Abbate, Dath)
Zaal Andronikashvili (Leibniz Center for Literary and Cultural Research): Small and Minor: Figures of Minority in the System of World Literature
11:30 | Closing remarks
20 (Freitag) 10:00 - 21 (Samstag) 12:00
Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und KulturforschungPariser Str. 1, 10719 Berlin