The booklet includes all accepted abstracts. Please see the session programme for the final programme and your conference folder for cancellations.
Isabel Capeloa Gil
Smuggling Lust. On the Cultural Re-turn of Luxury
Modern cultural discourse has inextricably linked materiality and desire. Georg Simmel famously wrote in his Psychology of Money, that “the possibility of desire is the possibility of objects of desire”, thus acknowledging the intimate connection between the material ownership of the so-called ’objective culture’ and the generation of desire. Psychoanalysis followed suit by displaying the intimacy between the libidinal drive and fetishization. The paradigm shift brought about by modernity was ultimately the presentation of the cultural life of objects not as a mere human creation, but rather as imagining the human itself. Within the context of the current revision of the models of cultural analysis and of a move to rethink not only the boundaries between artistic media and discourses, but also between modes of subject and object production, it is necessary to rethink the relation between desire, lust and the life of things. By taking as cases in point the postmodern neo-baroque imagination of luxury in contemporary art (Joana Vasconcelos), fashion and film, the talk will ask how the return of luxury in the time of austerity redresses the imagination of desire. Particularly in contemporary art, which has become a new luxury in itself, the baroque imagination of opulence produces a contentious surplus that challenges the very structure of representation. Arguably, through excess, on the one hand, and the revaluing of ordinary materials, on the other, the new luxury enacts a strategic smuggling of a critical consciousness. This calls for a rethinking of the category of luxury that, as Irit Rogoff insightfully claims, operates the boundaries of what is excluded, and brings to art the renewed inhabitation of a category of refusal, which ultimately refigures the imagination of the human.
Languages of Art and Worldmaking
In his Languages of Art (1968), Nelson Goodman developed a general theory of symbols and used it for understanding various aspects of art. In Ways of Worldmaking (1978), he argued that symbols are not devices for describing a world waiting to be discovered, but ways of making the worlds referred to. I will reconsider Goodman’s wide-ranging program and argue that (1) it should be freed from unnecessary metaphysical commitments – such as nominalism and anti-realism – and that (2) his theory of symbols should be supplemented with an account of direct reference. Then it will offer a fruitful theoretical framework for understanding art and its power to inform us about the world.
Epiphanies in Glass
Animals are our first metaphor (John Berger).
Glass is, perhaps, our first epiphany. Glass is the magical transformation of sand into glass.
Etymologically, “epiphany” comes from the Greek meaning “to show.” We associate glass with showing, including eyeglasses, microscopes, telescopes, magic lanterns, store windows, curiosity, crystal balls, display cases, even the barometer, which shows us the weather. Epiphanies manifest when an individual “has a vision.”
“Glass is dead matter transformed by human labor and by breath” (Isabelle Armstrong). This lecture will blow breath into the glass of five transparent and fragile worlds: the childhood imagination of Walter Benjamin; the manifestation of Cinderella’s glass shoe out of fur; the barometers and magnifying glasses of Marcel Proust; Werner Herzog’s 1976 film Hearts of Glass; and Jacque Lacan’s “The Looking-glass Phase.” In all five, glass is epiphanous.
Hitchhiker’s Guide to Literature: A New Theory of Literary Worldmaking
In order to understand the wide variety of literary worldmaking we must have a historically and culturally broad grasp of its building blocks. In my “hitchhiker’s guide” I attempt such an overall view by considering Sumerian, Indo-European (Sanskrit, Greek and later, mostly western) and Chinese literature and poetics. I briefly review a few of the most impressive recent theories of literary and narrative universals – such as those by Goodman, Pavel, Doležel, Schaeffer, Booker, Hogan, Boyd and Oatley, all men, alas – and then present a new theory that in my opinion can better encompass the different kinds of worldmaking in literary history. I propose that all of literature can be perceived as composed of (a combination of) three modes (oral, visual and written), which are varied by three major themes and their combinations, which in turn are given a number of inflections. Viewing literary worldmaking in terms of basic modes and themes with inflections has wide-ranging theoretical and pedagogical implications for studying literature.