ACLA 2019: Revisions of Fascism: History, Aesthetics, and Affect
“The logical outcome of fascism is an aestheticizing of political life,” writes Walter Benjamin in "The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility," thus placing aesthetics at the center of the critical discourse on fascism. Employed in work as disparate as Klaus Theweleit’s Male Fantasies (1977/1987) and Erin Carlston’s Thinking Fascism (1995), Alice Kaplan’s Reproductions of Banality (1986) and Mark Christian Thompson’s Black Fascisms (2007), Benjamin’s concept has situated fascism as a historical and phenomenological phenomenon. Reproduced incessantly, this line of Benjamin’s refuses to resolve into a single tradition of thought, a crystallized image. What—as we still feel we must ask in our current moment of danger—does it mean for fascism to be the “aestheticizing of political life”?
This seminar explores this question of aesthetics through the interrelations of fascism, visual culture, historiography, and the body, considering how Benjamin’s “aestheticizing of political life” might be understood as a name for a particular aesthetics of history. In other words, how does the aestheticization and mediation of history—a mediation that often relies on new media technologies—become a key site for the consolidation or contestation of fascist power? Can one say that fascism takes form through history? (I.e., is there a way of telling history in which fascism inheres?) And what is the status of different media, or genres, in the production of these histories?
While this seminar seizes upon history—as expressed within literary, filmic, or photographic texts—as a potentially central location for the dissemination of fascism, Benjamin’s emphasis on aesthetics remains at its heart, as it is the aesthetics of these histories which work upon and engage their audiences. Thus, it is also very interested in the analyses about effects and affects of histories imbricated with fascism. How does fascist history feel? How does it affect its audience? To what extent does historiography regulate and discipline the body (anatamo- or bio-politically)? Might the body be the form of fascist history?
Committed to interdisciplinary and intermedial approaches, this seminar welcomes work on popular as well as canonical literature, film, and photography. It is neither temporally nor geographically limited (transnational projects encouraged!), though it does encourage historically specific work. We are likewise interested in work that utilizes feminist and queer approaches as well as critical race theory.
This CFP is for a seminar for the ACLA Annual Meeting 2019, March 7-10 in Washington, D.C.. Please submit a proposal of 250 words through the ACLA website by 9 AM EST on September 20. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact sanders.bernstein at gmail.com or kristin.canfield at utexas.com.