[ACLA 2020] Ordinary Language Philosophy and Literary Studies

deadline for submissions: 
September 23, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
American Comparative Literature Association
contact email: 

Call for Abstracts

  ACLA 2020 (American Comparative Literature Association)Conference Dates: March 19-22, 2020, ChicagoAbstract Submission Deadline: Sept. 23, 2019 (9 a.m. EST)  Ordinary Language Philosophy and Literary Studies  

Lately, scholarly interest in Ordinary Language Philosophy (OLP) has been on the rise. From special issues of New Literary History (2015) and MLN (2015) to monographs (e.g., Moi 2017; Habjan forthcoming) and edited volumes (Standish and Saito 2017), scholars have been suggesting that OLP deserves a more prominent place in literary studies than it has so far received. This seminar seeks to assess such claims by historicizing the dialogue between literary studies and OLP and by examining new ways to frame and encourage such dialogue in the future. 

Perhaps the most notable frame for recent interest in OLP is the discipline’s ongoing conversation about “postcritique.” Rita Felski, for example, locates Ludwig Wittgenstein and Stanley Cavell in a “tradition…that has circumvented or challenged the logic of critique” (The Limits of Critique 150). Felski’s hedge, however, is telling. Readers may find it difficult to say whether it is a circumvention of critique that these philosophers offer or a challenge. Perhaps it is something altogether different. Certainly, they would insist that the distinction matters.

Exploring OLP’s relation to postcritique will be part of this seminar’s goal, but only part. Presentations on all aspects of the historical, current, and future relationship between OLP and literary studies are invited. Examples of welcome possibilities include:

    • OLP approaches to recent debate over the basic words we use to describe what we do: close vs. distant reading, surface vs. depth, etc. 

    • Papers that examine the distinctive styles of philosophers such as Cavell and Wittgenstein, exploring the role style plays in shaping their thinking

    • Histories of the interaction between OLP and literary studies

    • Interrogations of the coherence of OLP as a method or field and the limits of its application to literary studies

    • Papers that explore how to put OLP into practice, reading a particular literary or cultural text

    • Papers that draw attention to ordinary language philosophers so far neglected by literary scholars

    • Explorations of the influence of OLP on specific authors or literary movements

    • Papers that engage with geographical and linguistic areas beyond the Anglo-American are especially welcome, as are papers that put OLP in dialogue with any of the interdisciplinary paradigms that currently dominate literary studies (including, but not limited to, environmental humanities, queer studies, post-humanism, decolonial methodologies, etc.)

The task of the seminar is made both more timely and more poignant by the 2018 passing of Stanley Cavell, one of the field’s foremost advocates and practitioners. In the spirit of Cavell’s disciplinary promiscuousness, however, the seminar will refuse rigid demarcations of “literary studies.” Papers on all cultural forms are welcome, including cinema, music, new media, and graphic novels Contact Matthew Nelson with questions (menelso2@illinois.edu). Submit 300-word abstracts through the ACLA online portal: https://www.acla.org/node/26186