MATTER(S) OF FACT
The call for papers for the 20th annual graduate conference in Comparative Literature, Hispanic Studies, and Theory and Criticism at Western is now open!
This special edition of the conference is called “Matter(s) of Fact” and will take place at Western between March 15-17, 2018. Expanded versions of conference contributions will be considered for publication in our journal. Check out the call on the Matter(s) of Fact blog and don’t forget to send your submissions until January 3rd !
DISABILITY’S ‘PINOCCHIO STORY’: A MODERN CRISIS OF THE DISABLED IDENTITY - “Disability’s `Pinocchio Story`: A Modern Crisis and How to Begin its End” will express an understanding of the disabled identity as internally and eternally schismatic and suggest the disabled occupy a fascinating position of alterity. Like Pinocchio, however, the desire to be something other than what we are, as disabled, is continually threatening our future as an identity group. Part of this threat arrives from inside ourselves, and another hails from technological innovation in a digital world. These threats are expressed in the desire to `pass` or hide our disabled reality in both online and personal spaces, as well as in the question of birthing ethics and designer children. As such, this paper will complicate a recent study on the capacity for disability to be minimized or hidden online (by Bowker and Tuffin) while interrogating whether or not this tendency ought to be viewed with positivity. It will also offer a view of the disabled future that faces potential deletion via technological change. After clarifying this modern crisis, this work will seek to offer a different entry point into understanding the disabled identity which may summon new forms of empowerment. By utilizing analysis of James Burger's notions on the relationship between disabled birth and identity catastrophe, this paper will work to embrace the unique position of the disabled as that which already faces ends, decay and damage and rises up from it rather than stealing away from its realities. Additionally, utilizing notions of the body helmed by Gilles Deleuze, as well as an understanding of exilic experience brought on by Mimi Thy Nguyen, I will come to the conclusion that the disabled identity has the capacity to operate from positions of damage, exile and potential deletion to advance powerful philosophical conceptions of the self. “SILENCE: ON JOUAL!”: LITERARY VIOLENCE IN AN OTHERWISE ‘QUIET’ REVOLUTION - Behaviors toward language and language users – by which is meant a wide range of gestures, actions or value judgments made towards a variety of language or its speakers, from violent assault to demeaning joke and everything in between – are not just headline material, they are also the spark from which originate many political fires. Language is more than a way to communicate with other human beings; it is a matter of cultural survival, of life and death.
The Canadian province of Québec provides a clear example of how behaviors toward language and language users can be recuperated extra-linguistically to support a larger social or ideological discourse. There, language has been a cornerstone of a national and individual identity in perpetual construction since the very beginning of European settlement. The most intense linguistic debate to take place in Québec occurred in the 1960's, a period of enormous and uncharacteristically fast political and social changes. This debate focused almost exclusively on the slang of poor, uneducated French-Canadians, commonly known as joual, which quickly became conceptualized as a dual linguistic entity that was both the symptom of a cultural oppression and a potential tool to destroy this very oppression. This period also marked the first use of joual in the literary field as part of a political and stylistic movement aiming at creating a true “littérature québécoise”. The theorizations of joual by its enemies and supporters, in both literary and political works, has contributed to the larger discourse and praxis of cultural change that was affecting Québec society during the so-called Quiet Revolution. STUDYING OUTSIDE THE LAW: KAFKA AND THE QUESTION OF BENJAMIN’S POLITICS - This essay will develop an important thread in Benjamin’s work, namely, a conception of politics capable of resisting the mythical foundation of the authority (or the law). This will be done by arguing that an affinity exists between his early writings on politics and violence (1920-21) and his 1934 essay on Kafka (“Franz Kafka: On the 10th Anniversary of his Death”)—an essay generally not considered relevant in considerations of Benjamin’s political theory. It will be shown that Benjamin reads Kafka as descriptive of the ‘mythical’ foundation of authority, while also elaborating possible modes of resistance to such a foundation. This will be shown as a fusing of theological and materialist domains, more generally a gesture at the heart of Benjamin’s thinking. This can be expressed as a certain ‘cunning of theology’: a ‘practical’ theology by which one is able to reclaim a sense of the political in the present moment, allowing for the ability to ‘study’ or act beyond the law. As will be demonstrated, this relates to Benjamin’s broader attempt to employ theology to political ends, or rather to fuse the influence of Scholem with that of Brecht. REPRESENTATIONS OF THE DYSTOPIAN OTHER(NESS) IN MARGARET ATWOOD’S ORYX AND CRAKE - Being different marks distinctiveness in plurality, especially in a homogenous society. But can this hypothetic difference operate on an internal level? Can the subject perceive a distinctive "I" in the own sense of self? The figurative implications behind these initial assumptions and rhetorical questions about otherness and selfhood signal a concetual shift to the sphere of philosophy. Emphasizing the philosophical repercussions of the concept of Otherness, this paper focuses on exposing the meanings of the notion in connection with identity and selfhood. Accordingly, the critical skeleton of the paper is delineated by Emmanuel Levinas' analytical thinking and ethical remarks on the notion of Otherness. Starting from the rimbaudian philosophy of the "other" ("I is an Other"), the focus will be on the different connotations on the self in contemporary ethics. Following Levinas' and other theoreticians' lines of thought, the focus gradually shifts to the applicability of their theories to the concrete textual dimension. As for Oryx and Crake, in order to better understand the rise of the dystopian fiction and its significance, an insight into the theoretical conventions of Postmodernism is necessary. Contrasting the Postmodern worldview with the Modernist poetics, the change of perception on the issue of the Otherness becomes clearly perceivable. Concepts and phrases such as "defamiliarization", "dedublation", "self-transcendence", "artificiality", "digital clones", "denied Other", "technological apocalypse" occupy a crucial role in deciphering Atwood's otherness(es). More specifically, using these concepts, I will argue that there are three main manifestations of Otherness in the novel: the Other as doppelganger, the denied Other, and the digitalized embodiments of Otherness. All these variations reflect a peculiar aspect of the dystopian narrative. Therefore, uncovering the mystery of Otherness in Atwood's masterpiece also becomes a personal journey towards understanding the aesthetics of atypicality in dystopian fiction.