Journal of Literary Theory Vol. 8, No. 1 (2014)
Submission Deadline: January 01, 2014
CALL FOR ARTICLES
›Context‹ is often regarded as a foundational concept among those humanities
and sciences that are concerned with texts. One could argue that every theory
about texts or literature has to – either explicitly or implicitly – make
some assumptions about what a context is. Assuming that contexts are,
generally speaking, relations between a text and states of affairs external
to it (such as language, genres, other texts, culture, society, or history),
it is hardly imaginable that there is some theoretical enterprise concerning
texts which does not involve contexts. Consequently, models of textual
understanding as well as editorial or interpretative enterprises would have
to take all relevant contexts into account. Nevertheless, the notion has also
been discussed critically. It has been argued that it presupposes a specific
conception of text which is no longer tenable, and that it should therefore
be replaced by alternative concepts. It has even been suggested that the
difference between text and context is obsolete and should therefore be
Compared to other foundational notions (e.g. ›author‹), ›context‹ has not yet
received the adequate amount of attention by the text studies, given its
importance. The concept, though often used, is explained rarely. The
discourse is mostly dominated by a more or less non-technical usage of the
term, which comprises various ways of speaking. This situation calls for
terminological clarification of the concept.
A closer look at different textual and literary theories reveals a vast
variety of opinions regarding the question which contexts are relevant and
provide fruitful grounds for the interpretation of literature. Structuralists
argue that texts are defined by their systematic semiotic relations.
Post-structuralists concentrate on discursive and intertextual references and
relations. Author-oriented approaches emphasize contexts of production, such
as authors’ biographies, other works, or facts that might reveal information
about their intentions. Reader-oriented approaches focus on the cognitive
capacities of readers and their aesthetic judgements. Those accounts
generally describe context as knowledge and capacities on part of the reader.
Theories that concentrate on society and culture have proposed models that
relate context and text to each other in terms of system theory, theories of
action, or social field theory. This list can easily be expanded.
Consequently disagreement about the question which theoretical foundation
should be used to analyze text and context prevails. This pluralism of
theories calls for a critical survey as well as further reflection on the
concept, which would allow to go beyond the status quo of fundamental
disagreement. Furthermore, texts in digital media seem to pose entirely new
challenges for the humanities and their use of the concept.
Currently, a variety of contexts is factored into textual inquiries. However,
it is rarely made explicit which criteria guide the decision about which
contexts to include, and what follows from those decisions. Thus, it seems
necessary to reflect methodologically on the significance of contexts for
literary and textual inquiries.
Possible topics and questions could include, but are not limited to:
What does ›context‹ refer to? What should it mean?
How is the concept to be distinguished from related concepts, such as
›cotext‹ or ›situation‹? What are the systematic relations between those
concepts? What is the relation between ›context‹ and ›discourse‹?
Is there an adequate way to classify the variety of states of affairs that
are referred to as ›context‹?
How should the relation between text and context be described?
Which facts constitute the context as the environment for a text?
What kinds of entities are contexts?
What is the role of contexts in textual understanding?
How can it be decided whether a context is adequate, relevant, or fruitful
for a certain text?
What role do contexts play in the formulation and verification of hypotheses
What role do contexts play in scientific argumentation?
Is there a need for revised terminology as well as new methods, due to new
media and digital artifacts? How would those concepts or methods have to look
Is it possible to retain some notion of context despite the criticism that
has been voiced, or does it presuppose conceptions in textual theory that are
no longer tenable? How could the concept be replaced?
We encourage submissions from all language and literature departments as well
as other fields within the humanities and social sciences that consider texts
as their subject, such as philosophy, or history. Furthermore, we welcome
submissions from fields that concentrate on other artifacts, but face similar
challenges, such as media studies, history of art, or musicology.
Contributions should not exceed 50,000 characters in length and have to be
submitted until January 1, 2014. Please submit your contribution
electronically via our website www.jltonline.de under ›Articles‹.
Articles are chosen for publication by an international advisory board in a
double-blind review process.
For further information about JLT and to view the submission guidelines,
please visit www.jltonline.de or contact the editorial office at
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SUBMISSIONS THAT DO NOT FOCOUS ON ONE OF OUR SPECIAL TOPICS CAN BE SUBMITTED
CONTINUOUSLY VIA OUR WEBSITE.
JLT aims to publish work on fundamental issues in methodology and the
construction of theories and concepts, as well as articles on particular
literary theories. Case studies, i.e. studies on specific authors, works, or
problems of literary history, are accepted only if they adopt a predominantly
systematic perspective, contribute to the reconstruction of the history of
literary theory, or pursue innovative methods. Moreover, the Journal of
Literary Theory contains work reviewing and outlining trends of theoretical
debates in literary theory and related disciplines.
Please contact the editorial office for further details.
JLT - Journal of Literary Theory
Seminar für Deutsche Philologie
0049 - (0)551 - 39 – 7534
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The German Studies Call for Papers List
Editor: Stefani Engelstein
Assistant Editor: Olaf Schmidt
Sponsored by the University of Missouri
Info available at: http://grs.missouri.edu/resources/gerlistserv.html