SPECIAL ISSUE – (Con)textual Strategies: Understanding and Interpretation
The late founding editor of the Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics, Prof. A. C. Sukla, thought of doing an issue on textual strategies for understanding and interpretation way back in the eighties. At that time the philosophical movement of structuralism was popular and had led to a more integral approach of understanding and interpretation. The meaning of texts and other cultural artefacts was now explicitly approached in relation to their context(s). Based on insights of Ferdinand de Saussure, structuralist approaches stepped away from a dualistic or dichromatic thinking. The signifiant (the sign or the case) and the significance (meaning) are related in an inextricable manner. Structuralist thinking lead to the realisation that thought (idea, concept, belief) is an integral part of language – language and thought are both there ‘at once’. To put it simply: there is not a word on the one hand, and there is its meaning on the other. The word and the meaning are both there at once, and cannot be approached separately. The relations that are found between the language and the case, the text and its meanings, were seen as a structure, where all parts are meaningful of. Each part of this structure must always be approached from different angles, mapping the rich web of relations that are found internally – but that also reach out externally. As Paul Ricoeur said it: all saying is always about something. And only because man has language, he can have ‘a world’. A world in contrast of only a ‘situation’. A world that is made up of everything there is, and of everything that was said and thought about what is there – and that somehow is understood as meaningful. Structuralism added: not only what is there is understood, but what is understood is also ‘there’. So by the way we understand things, the case itself is somehow ‘changed’. In this issue we intend to show the rich range of contemporary approaches on understanding-strategies. Structuralism has developed into new and current ways of thinking about literature and aesthetics.
Suggestions for papers may be posted to email@example.com. Some of the contributors include Charles Altieri, Ariel Alvarez, Trevor Batten, Marieke Maes, Thijs Lijster, Alex De Little, Beatriz Contreras Tasso, Kinya Nishi, Glenn Plaisier, Bowen Wang, Elki Boerdam, and others. More invitations to contribute are currently being considered.
SPECIAL ISSUE – Telling Lives, Signifying Selves: Life Writing, Representation, and Identity
Guest Editor: Mukul Chaturvedi, Associate Professor of English, Zakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi
Stories have an irresistible charm, and they continue to fascinate us. In fact, stories or narratives are the only way we understand ourselves and our world. If, as Seyla Benhabib (1996) says, “we are who we are, or the ‘I’ that we are, by means of a narrative”, then the narrative of a life or writing about one’s own life may be a crucial way in which the writer can inscribe or access subjectivity. Life writing fundamentally embodies a crises of representation as it struggles to represent a life by ordering it in a narrative form and foregrounds ways of being in the world. As a discourse on the self, life writing traverses’ various disciplinary terrains like history, literature, journalism, ethnography, and pushes the limits of writing the self. Extending the traditional generic boundaries of autobiography and biography, life writing encompasses a vast array of self-induced narrative forms that have spawned in the recent years. Other than life writing texts like memoirs, diaries, and testimonies there is also an upsurge in graphic memoirs and digital storytelling that have brought a new dimension to practices of narrating the self. In the field of cinema, biopics have spawned in the recent years and there is a keen interest in adapting real-life stories.
Dismantling the notion of a coherent self and positing it as provisional and contingent, life writing acknowledges the complex nature of autobiographical acts and their performative nature in which ‘selves’ are constantly configured through experience, memory, location, identity, and ability. Also, life writing has emerged as a more inclusive genre which allows for collaborations, non-hierarchical connections to emerge as it gives voice to oral and marginalized subjectivities. Interestingly, one key aspect of life writing is how it circulates across languages, cultures, borders through translation and its various trajectories in transnational contexts. While translation of life writing texts as forms of testimonial acts or role of personal narratives in human rights (Gilmore 2017 Smith and Schaffer 2004) has been empowering as narrators find voice and reclaim agency, critics have cautioned towards the pitfalls and appropriation of these texts as they circulate beyond the locus of their origin. (Whitlock 2007)
Addressing the epistemological, ethical, methodological and translational issues in life writing scholarship across varying narrative forms and media, this special issue envisages itself as an interface between life writing researchers/academicians, life writing practitioners, life writing translators and calls upon the contributors to examine the sub-themes mentioned below. These themes are only suggestive and in no way restrictive. Contributors are welcome to go beyond them and offer creative and critical insights from a range of life writing forms.
- Pushing the Boundaries: the limits of life writing
- Autobiography and Truth Claims
- Life writing and Memory
- Life Writing as Testimony
- Life in Translation: Challenges and Responsibilities
- Life Writing and Gender
- Ethics of Authorship: Collaborative life writing
- Life writing and Censorship
- Queer & Trans Lives
- Disability life writing
- Life on Celluloid: Biopics
- Digital Storytelling
- Graphic lives/memoirs
Please submit abstracts of 300 words with a brief bio note.
- Last date for the submission of abstract: 15th May 2021
- Intimation of selection of abstracts: 30th May 2021
- Full Paper (5,000-6,000 words) submission: 15th Sep 2021
Please email your abstracts to firstname.lastname@example.org with a copy to email@example.com.
SPECIAL ISSUE – Immaterial and Material Discourse
Last date of Submission: 30 April 2021
George Berkeley is considered a great innovator of immaterial discourse. He is best known for his early works on vision like An Essay towards a New Theory of Vision (1709) and metaphysics in A Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710); and, Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous (1713). Berkeley furthermore asserted that the root of all intellectual perplexity and delusion is abstract ideas. He insisted in his Introduction to the Principles of Human Knowledge that: (a) abstract ideas could not be produced, (b) they were not necessary for the transmission of knowledge, and (c) they were contradictory and unpredictable and therefore incomprehensible. However, Berkeley also defends two metaphysical ideas: namely, idealism and immaterialism. He believed to be is to be perceived.
More recent methodologies of material culture have primarily focused on the use and historical meaning of artifacts populating a story or analyzing the book itself as a commercial product circulated on the market. The study of comparative literature and aesthetics, and more extensively, cultural spaces, is strengthened by recent studies on materiality. For instance, MacArthur Fellow Fred Moten’s discourse on Marxism, dialectical materialism, and Kant’s philosophies of freedom and nature employ an (im)material approach to understanding cosmopolitanism, a priori customs, and being. His disjuncture of material /immaterial conditions is opposed to traditional philosophy, which maintains an uprising in the intangible portion of thinking, evidence, and tendencies as disaffected from the actual domain of practical life and methods. For instance, numerous movements towards subjectivity have explored embodiment and the materiality of thought.
On the other hand, some may define the dynamics of our spatial conception explored through fictitious spaces as immaterial. As a result, the distinction in materiality/immateriality is progressively leading to possible reconfigurations of everyday relations, traces, and the interplay between these three subjects: cosmopolitanism, dialectics, and the climate. How do we understand that the immateriality of literature conveys the vital clash between tangible and immaterial-psychological, mental, and spiritual?
Some topics to consider include:
- Aesthetics and material/immaterial traditions
- Poetics and (im)materialism
- Philosophy and material limitations
- Speculative/Sci-Fi fiction and metaphysical junctures
- Cosmopolitanism and the material/immaterial concerns of literature
- Religion and metaphysical practices
- Anthropogenic and material activities
- Dialectics and materialism/immaterialism
- Migration and (im)material climates
- Race and materialism/immaterialism
- Philological material/immaterial affects
- Linguistics and esoteric circumstances
- Ritual and (im)material practices
SPECIAL ISSUE – Reading Contemporary South Asian Literature: A Postcolonial-Ecocritical Approach
Last date of Submission: 31 May 2021
As a school of criticism, the central argument in Postcolonial studies revolves around dismantling the dominant narrative of colonial or imperial history. A colonization process not only captures the native people and culture but their lands too. Proper reading of postcolonial theory would be by understanding the epistemology of colonized environment or vice-versa. Even after decolonization the ideology of imperialism is persistent in native memory and thought. An embeddedness in native psyche not only nurtures imperialism but manifests them with the footprints of colonial masters. In postcolonial countries the discourse of social and economic justice is deeply rooted in ecology. As a consequence, environmental activists from postcolonial nations tend to see any modern policy as a disguised form of neocolonialism or imperial dominance, globalization and modernization.
Since the shocks of imperialism and globalization are most strongly felt in the third world countries, most of them being former colonies, this issue intends to explore texts by South Asian writers examining how these writers and their characters cope with the destruction of the environment. The special issue plans to seek out the writings of epistemological understanding of our environment. Moreover, the issue would also like to see a critical entanglement of race, class, gender, culture, modernization, globalization, nation and trans-nation, etc. The proposed issue, moreover, will attempt to show how different genres of literature ranging from fiction to non-fiction can bring out inimitable insights into varied understanding of postcolonial and ecocritical studies.
The sub-themes are:
1. Ecological imperialism
2. The Discourse of Deforestation in Contemporary South Asian Literature
3. Postcolonial Landscapes: Animals and Humans in Postcolonial Narratives
4. Gardens of Resistance in Postcolonial texts
5. Women and Environment in South Asian Ecotexts
SPECIAL ISSUE – A Study of Aesthetics in Art and Representation
Contemporary studies in art in juxtaposition with the politics of representation lack a cogent evaluation of the limitations of the persisting need for epistemic validation for ontological existence. The relationship between art and its contribution toward the endorsement of ontological beliefs is a complex entity that constructs and reconstructs material conceptions of literary history. Such gaps in literary criticism necessitate a theoretical analysis of the aesthetic experience in art and reality, and the scope of aesthetics in its (re)presentation of the reality of art.
This issue is an effort to commemorate the contributions of Prof. Ananta Charan Sukla (1942 – 2020) toward the realm of literary criticism. His chief works in literary theory engage with a tendentious rereading of the concept of aesthetics for the promotion of novel ideas in the field. To understand and develop his literary output, scholars need to question the positionality of the ‘third-world’ subject in Western discourses to enable the creation of mechanisms of departure from mainstream criticism for the development of an alternate mode of enquiry that concerns itself with the establishment of the subaltern as the Subject. Within this postcolonial framework, we need to examine contemporary theories of literary representation, and study the essence of art and its reality.
Other potential thematic constructs for academic discourse include reconsideration of literary theory and representation in comparative literature. Prof. Sukla has extensively worked on distinct modes of representation and re-presentation in fiction. Scholars are, therefore, welcome to integrate the diversity of his research interests to explore the fundamentals of fictionality in literary tradition, particularly its relationship with epistemology and subjectivity. Discourse on fictionality is supremely pertinent to understand Prof. Sukla’s examination of the conceptuality of fiction and its contribution, if any, to the paradigmatic status of the actual world.
To make the issue an academic ode to a remarkable critic, we invite scholarly papers that engage with the potentialities of representation in contemporary criticism and explore the aesthetics of art. We also welcome papers that introduce the anxieties and enquiries of contemporary criticism in their engagement with literary aesthetics. The objective is to continue discussions inaugurated by Prof. Sukla in academia.
Possible topics of discussion include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Mimesis in Greek and Indian Aesthetics
- Indian Aesthetics in Dramaturgy and Poetics
- The Indian ‘Subject’ in Western Aesthetics
- Art, Essence, and Experience in Contemporary Aesthetics
- Examination of Representation and Deconstruction in Literary Theory
- Theorisation of Impersonal Art
- Potentiality of Art in the Indian Milieu
- Transcultural Possibilities of Classical Indian Aesthetics
- Strategies of Deconstruction in Comparative Literature
- Language, Discourses, and Aesthetics
- Ontology and its Representation in Literature
- Environmental Aesthetics in Indian and Western Philosophy