CFP: [Graduate] The Idea of Voice, Deconstruction, and Narrative Theory (3/1/2008; MLA 2008)

full name / name of organization: 
Olga Medvedeva
contact email:

2008 MLA Convention in San Francisco, CA

This special session aims to re-examine the idea of voice in narrative
theory, and in particular to question the concept of voice as an inherent
and independent agent of narrative discourse. The assumption of the
stability and even validity of this concept and of the idea of voice more
generally have been questioned in a number of recent developments, arguably
most radically in Jacques Derrida’s deconstructive work, although the work
of other thinkers, such as Mikhail Bakhtin, Maurice Blanchot and Paul de
Man, has been nearly as significant in this respect. A crucial part of
Derrida’s deconstructive project, especially in his early work, is his
deconstruction of the uncritically assumed opposition between voice/speech
and writing, and the hierarchical primacy of the former over the latter,
dominant throughout Western intellectual history. Derrida also extended
this deconstruction to his specific analysis of narrative, as did several
of his followers; and the work of others, such as Blanchot and de Man,
pursued similar critical agenda. This criticism, notwithstanding, the view
of narrative voice grounded in the ideas of its inherent and independent
agency continues to dominate the understanding of voice in narrative theory
and in practical criticism of narrative literature. Accordingly, among the
questions we would like to address are: What challenges does Derrida’s
deconstruction and related developments, pose (and we believe they still
do) to the currently dominant (mostly still formalist and structuralist)
conceptions of voice in narrative theory? Why do they appear to have had
only a limited impact in this field thus far? How can they shape this
field in the future? Arguments built at the intersection of narratology,
deconstruction, philosophy, and literature (preferably modernist and
postmodernist) are especially welcome.

        Please submit 500-word abstracts and 2-page cv to Olga Medvedeva
( The deadline for proposal is March 1, 2008

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Received on Wed Jan 23 2008 - 23:59:30 EST

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