DESIRING THE TEXT, TOUCHING THE PAST: TOWARDS AN EROTICS OF RECEPTION
A one-day conference co-organized by
the Bristol Institute of Greece, Rome and the Classical Tradition &
the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto
University of Bristol, 10 July 2010
Keynote Speaker: Professor Carolyn Dinshaw, NYU
CALL FOR PAPERS
"In reading Cicero’s letters I felt charmed and offended in equal measure.
Indeed, beside myself, in a fit of anger I wrote to him as if he were a
friend and contemporary of mine, forgetting, as it were, the gap of time,
with a familiarity appropriate to my intimate acquaintance with his
thought; and I pointed out those things he had written that had offended
me." (Petrarch, Rerum Familiarum Liber I.1.42)
Love, desire, fannish obsession and emotional identification as modes of
engaging with texts, characters and authors are often framed as
illegitimate and transgressive: excessive, subjective, lacking in
scholarly rigour. Yet such modes of relating to texts and pasts persist,
across widely different historical periods and cultural contexts. Many
classical and medieval authors recount embodied and highly emotional
encounters with religious, fictional or historical characters, while
modern and postmodern practices of reception and reading – from high art
to the subcultural practices of media fandom – are characterized by desire
in all its ambivalent complexity. Theories of readership and reception,
however, sometimes seem unable to move beyond an antagonistic model:
cultural studies sees resistant audiences struggling to gain control of or
to overwrite an ideologically loaded text, while literary models of
reception have young poets fighting to assert their poetic autonomy
vis-a-vis the paternal authority of their literary ancestors.
This conference aims, by contrast, to begin to elaborate a theory of the
erotics of reception. It will bring together scholars working in and
across various disciplines to share research into reading, writing and
viewing practices characterized by love, identification, and desire: we
hope that it will lead to the establishment of an international research
network and the formulation of some long-term research projects. In order
to facilitate discussion at the conference, we will ask participants to
circulate full papers (around 5,000 words) in May 2010.
We now invite abstracts of 300 words, to be submitted by email by 30
November 2009. Abstracts will be assessed on the basis of their
theoretical and interdisciplinary interest. We particularly welcome
contributions from scholars working on literary, visual and performance
texts in the fields of: history, reception studies, mediaeval studies, fan
studies, cultural studies, theology, and literary/critical theory.
Some ideas which might be addressed include, but are not limited to:
* Writing oneself into the text: self-insertion and empathetic identification
* Historical desire: does the historian desire the past?
* Hermeneutics and erotics
* Pleasures of the text, pleasures of the body: (how) are embodied
responses to the text gendered?
* Anachronistic reading: does desire disturb chronology?
* Erotics and/or eristics: love-hate relationships with texts
This conference is part of the ‘Thinking Reciprocity’ series and will
follow directly from the conference ‘Reception and the Gift of Beauty’
(Bristol, 8-9 July 2010). Reduced fees will be offered to people attending
If you have any queries, or to submit an abstract, please contact one of
the conference organizers:
Dr Ika Willis (Ika.Willis AT bristol.ac.uk)
Anna Wilson (anna.wilson AT utoronto.ca).