CFP: [Theory] Matters of State: Bildung and Literary-Intellectual Discourse in the Nineteenth Century. 23-25/04/09

full name / name of organization: 
Pieter Vermeulen

Call for Papers
Matters of State: Bildung and Literary-Intellectual Discourse in the
Nineteenth Century
Leuven University, April 23-25 2009
The American and French Revolutions are generally considered as decisive
episodes in the emergence of what we have come to know as modern
democracy. Their displacement of time-honored models of hereditary rule
and of monotheistic conceptions of sovereignty inaugurated Western
modernity. The fall-out of these ruptures made the 19th century an era of
unprecedented intensity in the history of politics and the political. As a
time of massive demographic change, new patterns of production and
distribution, seismic surges in geopoliticization, and relentless social
differentiation and specialization, the 19th century became a ‘condition’
demanding to be addressed. This challenge was met by a multiplicity of
discourses, few of which can be decisively told apart: poetry, political
economy, cultural criticism, historiography, philosophy, and science in
their different ways all attempted to measure the impact of the
displacements that defined their modernity and to shape an adequate
response to them.

It is from this context that nineteenth-century discourses of the State
derive their urgency. As strategies to imagine â€" and to actively pursue â€"
forms of collectivity that can serve as a concerted response to the
challenges of modernity, these discourses enlist (or reject) categories
such as the nation, education, or the imagination in order to formulate a
new rhetoric of community. What distinguishes the discourse on the State
is its express ambition to contribute to an appropriate response to the
modern condition by training its audience to become responsible citizens
of the State. This typically involves the adaptation of models for the
cultivation of the modern self, such as those inherited from the German
discourse on Bildung, to contexts of increased scale and complexity that
challenge these models to the core. Not only in Britain or Germany, but in
every locality where the task of articulating the nation with the State is
recognized as a discursive challenge, literary-intellectual discourse
becomes an archive where many of the tensions and contradictions of the
nineteenth century intersect in a particularly condensed way.

Because the imagination of the State, as a political and social unit,
relies on rhetorical, tropological, and imagistic processes, disciplines
that explicitly focus on textual and imagistic strategies are crucial in
the analysis of the politics of the State. ‘Matters of State’ proposes to
revisit significant instances of the literary-intellectual attempt to re-
think the State, and relevant intersections of these attempts with related
and/or competing political, literary, scientific, (crypto-)religious,
iconographic, … discursive strategies to imagine the State. We are
interested in papers that focus on explicit or implicit contributions to a
public aesthetics of the State by way of new or modified rhetorics of

Possible topics include but are not restricted to the following:

- What are the means of production, cultivation, preservation and
reproduction of “moral sentiments” appropriate to an ethos of the State?
- How do affective dispositions like sympathy and trust travel from the
intimate sphere of personal encounter to the public sphere of citizenship?
- Given the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment reassessment of the
impact of religion on the individual, what are the discursive formations
that take over, at least in part, the public administration of emotional
investment traditionally monitored by religious institutions?
- How do available or emergent routines of identity formation in terms of
class, gender or race relate to models of citizenship?
How do concepts such as “region,” “country,” “nation,” and “Empire” find a
place in a rhetoric of community centering on the State?
- What are the effects of the interaction of organic metaphors and an
increasingly industrialized nineteenth-century reality?
- In what way do present-day discourses on governmentality, biopower, and
sovereignty allow us to reflect on nineteenth-century conceptualizations
of the State?
- How do discursive constructions of the State differ in different
countries, both in Europe and abroad?
- To what extent do literary-intellectual discourses exploit not only the
educational but also the imagistic denotation of the term Bildung?
- How do constructions of the State construct the State’s other?
- How did poetry, and literature more generally, operate as a privileged
space for the embodiment, testing, and subversion of models of the State?
To what extent do imaginings of citizenship, equality, fraternity …
inevitably entail the persistence, or even the promotion, of economic,
ethnic, and/or gender inequalities? How do inclusive models (fail to)
account for their exclusions?
- How do scientific models taken from mathematics and the natural sciences
influence discourse on community and citizen formation, and to what extent
are these models (biological, psychological, sociological,
anthropological, economic, …) accommodated in a prospective science of
State or Staatswissenschaft?
- How do nations and individuals come to terms with modernity as a growing
dependence on the specialized, expert discourses of science and
technology, and how are these ideas of dependence and expertise themselves
constructed rhetorically?

Keynote speakers:
Amanda Anderson (Johns Hopkins University)
Karl Heinz Bohrer (Stanford University)
Eva Geulen (Universität Bonn)
Thomas Pfau (Duke University)
Tilottama Rajan (University of Western Ontario)
Joseph Vogl (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, to be confirmed)

We welcome proposals for panels and for 20-minutes papers in English,
French, or German. Please send your one-page proposal (two pages for
panels), together with your contact data, in a separate word document to, before September 30. For panel
proposals, provide a general introduction and short abstracts for the
different papers (3 or 4). Notification of acceptance no later than
November 15. For more information, check The conference website will be
updated regularly as more information becomes available.

 From the Literary Calls for Papers Mailing List
             more information at
Received on Thu Jul 17 2008 - 08:40:50 EDT