SAMLA 2012: Beyond the Pleasure Principle?

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Comparative Literature Division
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We are seeking proposals for the Comparative Literature regular session at this year's South Atlantic Modern Language Association meeting in Durham, NC from November 9 to 11.


Beyond the Pleasure Principle?

As Lionel Trilling once noted, justifying art by the pleasures it gives has fallen into disrepute since the 18th century. Wordsworth already registers this defensive posture in his Lyrical Ballads preface when he asks that the "necessity of producing immediate pleasure [not] be considered as a degradation of the Poet's art," but rather that artists pay "homage … to the grand elementary principle of pleasure, by which [man] knows, and feels, and lives, and moves."

This session asks whether pleasure can still be valorized or whether it must forevermore be associated with hedonistic "degradation." Is pleasure an escape from reality and denial of the historical? Must it necessarily underwrite commodity fetishism, utilitarianism, and other ideologies? Does academic professionalization require literary scholars progress "beyond the pleasure principle" in order to emphasize art's didactic qualities? Must there be an antithetical opposition between pleasure and instruction, between formal appreciation and historicist hermeneutics or do both participate in what Foucault calls "the pleasure of analysis"? In a related vein, to what extent does pleasure's banishment as a "serious" question reflect the rise of the sublime? Does jouissance necessarily trump pleasure because it gestures towards the pains of this world? Does the sublime's integration of both pleasure and unpleasure undermine its strict delineation from the beautiful? Must aesthetic pleasure be seen as any less engaged with reality – political, historical, metaphysical – than aesthetic pain?

We invite paper submissions across time periods and national literatures that in some way address "the fate of pleasure" in literary study. Please email 300-word abstracts by May 20, 2012, to Gerard Cohen-Vrignaud at