CFP: [International] Symposium: On Bathos

full name / name of organization: 
Sara Crangle
contact email: 


a one-day symposium to be held at the University of Sussex, Brighton

April 17th, 2009
Sponsored by the Centre for Modernist Studies, Sussex

Since Longinus's third-century essay, "On the Sublime," bathos has
been defined as an inadvertent descent from the sublime to the
ridiculous in art; it is a rhetorical term generally applied to bad
art. But art in the twentieth century has increasingly embraced the
low, vulgar, and absurd, meaning that bathos is increasingly,
paradoxically, courted and venerated. Unnamed, bathos has become the
subject of academic study and endless gallery exhibitions - Tracey Emin
and Jeff Koons spring readily to mind. Of course, extended bathetic
practice far exceeds contemporary art: with its formulaic plots and
elaborate sets, eighteenth-century melodrama resurfaces in the
twentieth via cinema, radio, and television. Nineteenth-century
decadents adored vulgarity and decay, and similarly deflationary
movements such as Dada and pop art have encouraged a near-routine
embrace of commercialism and kitsch. Writers as diverse as Chaucer,
Wordsworth, Whitman, and Ishmael Reed engage in bathetic practice by
incorporating everyday speech into elevated literary forms.

With this historical range in view, bathos becomes pervasive to the
point of indistinction. This symposium will explore how bathos might
currently be defined, if at all. At stake will be a larger discussion
about how bathos is enacted in art past and present, and where art
might go after hitting, and so comfortably inhabiting, rock bottom.

We welcome papers that focus on twentieth century literature, but are
also interested in work that considers other genres and periods.

Please send all applications to Sara Crangle,
The deadline for applications is Friday, March 7th, 2009.

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Received on Thu Feb 12 2009 - 09:05:34 EST