American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA), Annual Meeting 2018

Los Angeles March 29–April 1, 2018

Technologies of Chaos: 1800/1900

Organizers: Jocelyn Holland (UCSB/Caltech)
Edgar Landgraf (Bowling Green State University)

The rise of a discourse on technology in the eighteenth century testifies
to a dual compulsion for order: both in terms of processing objects in the
natural world in the service of human interests and in an attempt to
systematically order these same processes. At the same time, however,
technologies are also discovered as a source of instability,
unpredictability, and chaos. From Goethe’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” to
Kafka’s “The Penal Colony”—to mention but two well-known examples that
bracket the historical period we would like to examine—technologies are
also experienced as disturbing the natural order, and as confusing attempts
of systematic comprehension.

In this ACLA session, we intend to examine the history of practices of
technologies of chaos from the Enlightenment era into the early 20th
century in literature and science. We will inspect instances where
techniques of calculated disorder and disruption are introduced
experimentally into technological environments. In particular, we are
interested in approaches which are able to connect historical case studies
to broader theoretical concerns of technological order and disorder.

The range of historical cases is surprisingly broad. Papers may include
examinations of:

The emergence of chaos as a key concept in Romantic poetics

Techniques of artistic improvisation

Controlled stimulus in medical treatments and shock therapies

Gene disruption in biomedical research

Techniques and technologies of warfare

Writing techniques and technologies

Educational techniques and technologies

Educational environment manipulations

Marxist theories of (alienation) technologies

Subversive media technologies

Automata and technologies of the human

Destructive and distractive technologies in the arts

250-300 word proposals for twenty-minute papers can be submitted at the
ACLA website ( from August 31 to September 21.
Please feel free to contact the seminar organizers by email with inquiries.

Jocelyn Holland ([log in to unmask])

Edgar Landgraf ([log in to unmask])

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