Reading and Touch

Essays are invited for a collection on the conjunction of  Reading and Touch.
The collection is designed to navigate the contemporary labyrinth of 
ever-proliferating aesthetic ideologies with the specific aim of 
reassessing  how we read—both how texts touch us, and we them.

Overall, the essays in this volume will offer a prolonged meditation on
the status of the text as we have inherited it from theory. Theory has
transformed the text into an aesthetic object that is a mute interlocutor
exposed to infinite indeterminacy. Contemporary critical thought has
redrawn the map of the senses in relation to cognition, expanding its
range once dominated by sight. It will be recalled that for
poststructuralism the figure of the reader is the scribe—another copying,
repeating, the mute text. The poststructuralist reader, in some ways,
comes to guard the meaning of the text through a manual mimesis, through a
repetition of the hand. The popular notion of repetition, which has shaped
the critical imagination of the past few decades, with its affiliated
notions of iterability, performativity, and redescription, far from
eclipsing the sense of touch, has prepared us to its re-evaluation. Any
discussion of reading after theory should avoid the nostalgia sometimes
associated with close reading and instead capitalize on the opportunity,
offered by contemporary modernity, to re-evaluate touch. How does this
renewed if unexplored attention to the hand and the tactile change our
understanding of interpretative acts?

The tone of the collection. We want to avoid the pitfalls of nostalgia
that discussions of reading after theory often seem to entail. Instead, we
seek to encourage our authors to play the keys of the present in as a
nuanced a way as possible, avoiding ideological rigidity. The collection
would like to be a  space for all those who have come to form strong
beliefs about reading—and its contiguous activities (writing,
interpreting)— motivated by the wish to preserve,  further explore, and
recast its status as a human affect.

We welcome contributions in English from different approaches—from the
thematic to the theoretical, the philological to the psychoanalytical, and
the interdisciplinary to the creative—by scholars and artists alike.

We are considering dividing the collection into the following sections:

1. The materiality of the signifier and interpretation. Some would argue
that ours is a post-hermeneutic world in which the materiality of the
signifier has destroyed the possibility of interpretation understood as
contending beliefs or ideologies. In fact, from this point of view the
materiality of the signifier turns out to be the logic of contemporary
globalization and the reign of terror. This section will take up the
debate on the materiality of the signifier—which from the 1960s to the
21st century has been on the rise—and whether the materiality of the
signifier, its shape, and thus its sensory experience have replaced the
depth of interpretation (see, for example, the work of Walter Benn

2. Reading and the supports of painting. How does reading materialize into
paint (for example in the tradition of Jasper Johns reading Hart Crane or
Frank O’Hara)? How does text become texture? This section will be devoted
to the  treatment of painting supports as if they were a page (think, for
example, of  Helen Frankenthaler’s Ideas)

3. Reading as Photography.  We have inherited from the
twentieth-century—we are thinking of Walter Benjamin, among others—a mode
of literary criticism that can best be described as the conjoining  of the
collector’s instinct and the photographer’s avid gaze. This section will
be devoted to reading as reconsidered within the limits of an age of
increased circulation of images and the production of the spectacular. Can
an exploration of touch (and surface and materiality) offer a new
dimension to contemporary analyses of visual culture?

3. The hand in literature. Thematic analyses of the hand in novels, poems,
etc., both as a metaphor and as an allegory for rethinking the way in
which we engage with the text itself.

4. Reading and love. Reading considered as an affect that generates
writing. This section will focus on the  amorous relation between reading
and writing. It is believed that such an affinity does not  fall within
the realm of literary criticism (think of Wellek) despite the fact that it
has been a main force of critical discourse for many decades (think of

5. Touching the manuscripts. The influence of the material aspects of
manuscripts on writing an interpretation.

Abstracts due: March 1, 2006
Send abstracts to:

Eric Jarosinski
Rutgers University
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G. F. Mitrano
University of Maryland in Europe
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The German Studies Call for Papers List
Editor: Stefani Engelstein
Assistant Editor:  Megan McKinstry
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