*Reading exhaust- | Erschöpfende Lektüren*

Graduate Student Conference

German Studies, Brown University

October 20-21, 2017

“Das menschliche Wissen ist den Graden nach unendlich, aber der Art nach
ist es durch seine Gesetze vollständig bestimmt, und läßt sich gänzlich

Johann Gottlieb Fichte, *Über den Begriff der Wissenschaftslehre*

“Wenn die Ausführung den Gedanken erschöpfte, der sehr gut ist, so wäre
nichts zu erinnern…”
 W. Goethe, *Wahlverwandtschaften*

“... das durchaus originelle jeder echttragischen Sprache, das
immerwährendschöpfrische …”
Friedrich Hölderlin, *Das untergehende Vaterland*

*Keynote speaker: Daniel Heller-Roazen (Princeton University)*
Date: Fr, Oct 20 - Sat, Oct 21 2017

The interdisciplinary conference *reading exhaust-* aims to trace the
oscillation of exhaustion between completion and depletion, plenitude and
hollowness, productivity and bankruptcy, as well as its connotations of a
possibly infinite depth or even collapse of bodies, both animate and
inanimate. In this regard, reading appears as a form (not far from *afform-*),
affirming tensions between attention *and* boredom, mindfulness *and*
mindlessness, and casting interpreter and art/work as effects of such
tensions. This leads to questions such as: Who is the subject or object of
exhaustion? In reading, does exhaustion (un-)bind both subject and object
of reading? How do *Schöpfung* and *Erschöpfung* relate to one another? Is
one the precondition for the other? Do they complement or subvert each
other? Is any word – and how – exhaustible? Take the word *exhaust*, for
example. Instead of reaching a finite form, the word appears to remain
open-ended in its various conjugation and translations, running the risk of
disintegration before our eyes – exhaust(ive)(ing)(ible)(ed)(!) –

We seem to exhaust ourselves in attempt to exhaust a text. We adopt the
posture of readerly attention, bent over, for an uncomfortably long period
of time, at an awkward angle; and when our concentration fades and
inspiration – the spirit – leaves us, a body is left behind, meaning
withdraws from the letter, leaving us with its sheer, graphic materiality,
a textual landscape. If we look at it this way, exhaustion could designate
not an end, but a beginning for the exploration of uncharted territory. In
reading, we find ourselves tracing and mining for meaning when meaning
retracts, pulls back, withdraws itself and pulls us into the depth. There
is a certain degree of compulsion, if not obsession, to this motion:
perhaps it is we who seek to reach a limit, to go beyond our forces when we
engage with texts and other webs, chasing what might be called a “reader’s
high”. Perhaps the moment of exhaustion confronts us as readers with the
limits of human capacity and reveals thereby to us our ‘human-ness.’ Might
there be inhuman, inexhaustible modes of reading? Can machines be exhausted
or are they digital dwarves, inexhaustibly mining through gigantic corpora?

Exhaust: from Latin *exhaurire*, ‘to draw off or out,’ ‘to use up
completely,’ ‘to empty,’ ‘to treat or study (a subject) so as to leave
nothing further to be explained or discovered,’ ‘to drain of strength or
resources, or (a soil) of nutritive ingredients.’ Does exhaustion presume
an essence that can be drawn out of an object of investigation, or does the
question, drawing out a text’s exhaustibility and breaking through the
reader’s reserve, challenge its very readability? Is the semantic spectrum
of the word *exhaust* exhausted by bringing to light, digging up, its
etymology – in one language? Within exhaust particles from different
languages resonate. Ex=aus. The Old Norse *haust* corresponds to English
*harvest*, German *Herbst*, referring back to Latin *carpere*, ‘to cut,
divide, pluck’. *Haust* resurfaces in the Franconian German dialect as
noun, heap, ‘im Felde zusammengestellter Haufen (Heu).’ Here, *exhaust* and
*reading* – German *Lesen* (to read) and *Lese* (harvest) – do touch one
another. What are the fruits of labor reaped by the one who reads?

*reading exhaust-* aims to intertwine or confront close readings with
reflections on the relation of reading and working, the institutionalized
and professionalized status of reading today. This call is neither limited
to the field of literary studies nor to notions of text in the written
sense, but welcomes contributions from a variety of fields, such as Visual
and Performance Studies, History, Political Theory, or Digital Humanities.

The conference format will consist of a seminar setting (open to the
public) in which participants will each present a short paper of no more
than 6 pages. Primary materials chosen by the participants will be compiled
and distributed in a reader.

Abstracts no longer than 250 words should be submitted to
[log in to unmask] The deadline for submission is June 30, 2017.
Participants will be notified of their acceptance by July 15, 2017.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

*Reading readings* – the relation between so-called primary and secondary
literatures / hierarchies among readings / strategies of legitimacy,
authenticity/ inexhaustibility of reading vs. seemingly exhaustively read
texts (canon).

*Filibusters / Politics* – exhausting and reading as political acts,
strategies of delay

*Arbeiten / Durcharbeiten* – the (intellectual) worker, reading and work,
reading as work

*Exhaustion Matters* – questions of materials, bodies / human and inhuman /
mechanical and digital reading

*Reading Gestures *– languages (ach, oh) and scenes of exhausted or
exhaustible reading / close and distant forms of reading / breach of
linguistic, socio-political categories

*Metaphorical limits* – metaphors of exhaustions, catachresis

*Exhausting figures* – hermeneutic circles, infinite regress, translation,
mise en abyme

*Withdrawal *– dimensions in language that cannot be exhausted / what
withdraws from language?

*The Unreadable Space of Publications* – who reads, can or should read what
is written?

*Contact Info: *
Organizers: Daniel Lange, Christian Obst, Miriam Rainer

Contact Email: [log in to unmask]

The German Studies Call for Papers List
Editor: Sean Franzel
Assistant Editor: Olaf Schmidt
Sponsored by the University of Missouri
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