Program in Comparative Literature

Twelfth Annual

Corporeality: Performing the Body across Literatures, Cultures, Media, and the Arts

Date: 30 October – 01 November 2015
Keynote Address: Patricia Clough, City University of New York

“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy. And who knows for what purpose your body requires precisely your best philosophy?” (Friedrich Nietzsche, Also sprach Zarathustra, 1883)

Nietzsche provocatively challenges western idealism and its preference for intellect and seeks to resituate philosophy itself. His subversive focus on the body reappears today in the corporeal and affective turn. Our minds do not work alone, but instead every thought depends upon the body with its needs, desires, feelings, emotions, and affects.
The very suppression of the body historically in treatments of the human in fact reveals its presence. For Aristotle, art is experienced physically as collective ritual, as a shared catharsis cleansing each participant emotionally. Edmund Burke rediscovered Longinus’ sublime as the very power of art to move our senses. For Nietzsche, our narrow minds are never able to capture the ever more complex “music of life”. Bharata’s rasa theory insisted that art satisfies the palate like well-prepared food. Phenomenological and affective theories have extended the complex system of affects beyond art to include everyday social encounters and political value systems. Patricia Clough stressed that the af- fective turn brings us into a new territory, a new “threshold”: “beyond it, there is always a chance for something else, unexpected, new.” How can we imagine the bodily as the very basis of our thinking? What are the limits and potentials of theorizing the body? And what special role can art play as an incarnation that lies between the theoretical and the embodied?

The turn to the body and its network of complex affects requires new approaches, as Patricia Clough pointed out: “The affective turn invites a transdisciplinary approach to theory and method that necessarily invites experimentation in capturing the changing cofunctioning of the political, the economic, and the cultural”. We invite papers and panels that explore these concerns and transformations across literatures, media, and the arts. Varied historical and cul- tural contexts, as well as the inclusion of contemporary cultural and political studies will enrich our conversation. We welcome projects which explore the dimension of the bodily transgressing academic disciplines and going beyond the theoretical discourse in strictly aesthetic terms. We invite papers that take up the expression of sexual experience, the tradition of affect theory and phenomenology, and the diverse engagements dealing with ethical problems in history and today. Finally, we encourage all investigations which allow us to explore how what Nietzsche called “the music of life” depends on both body and mind in order to perform what it means to be human.

We call for papers that focus on the body:

→ within literatures, across time and culture
→ as mediated and represented in different global cultural contexts
→ across different media and art, including performance art and pornographic productions → within the cultural and ideological experience of social value systems and politics
→ within sexuality studies
→ via affect theory and phenomenology
→ as an interdisciplinary problem between the sciences and the humanities
→ as an ethical, moral and judicial problem based on the body/mind differentiation
→ as informing political and ethical debates such as those about sovereignty and free will

The deadline for Individual Abstracts and Panel Proposals is August 15th, 2015. All proposals should be submitted via email attachment to Panel Proposals may include 3 or 4 speakers. The panel leader must email the proposed title, topic, moderator (if available) and presenters for the panel. Each member of the panel must also submit their abstract via email.

For additional information about the conference, please contact conference organizers Rama Hamarneh and Reinhard Mueller at