CFP: [Renaissance] Potentiality and the Unfinished States of Literature (3/20/08; MLA '08)

full name / name of organization: 
Alysia Garrison
contact email:

CFP: “Potentiality and the Unfinished States of Literature”
A Panel of the MLA Graduate Student Caucus, MLA 2008

The Graduate Student Caucus, an affiliate organization of the MLA, is pleased to invite current
graduate students to submit proposals for twenty-minute papers for a panel discussion titled
“Potentiality and the Unfinished States of Literature” at the 2008 MLA annual meeting, 12/27-
12/30 in San Francisco. This panel will investigate “potentiality” as a means of thinking the
conditions of possibility of literature in all of its habits and guises.

Responding to Walter Benjamin’s call for the task of criticism to “read what was never written,”
we will consider how we might approach a text, genre or material form as an inhabitant of an
“unfinished state,” containing potential that is saved or conserved in actuality, or that is latent,
submerged, repressed, banned, or otherwise not fulfilled in its moment of production. The panel
will ask how narrative, poetic, or dramatic injunctions travel, become recessed, or remain
suspended to be addressed at another time, in another place, or under another sign. Following
Giorgio Agamben in The Idea of Prose, we will also think reflexively about how the realm of
study is itself the domain of potentiality, and the work of scholarship the labor of leaving the
work “unfinished.”

We are interested in papers that reflect on what it means to think of literature in its many
material productions and disciplinary formations as potential, as having the capacity to be taken
up elsewhere.

Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

--Literary, historical or theoretical legacies
--The afterlives of period, genre or form
--Active and passive potential
--The long eighteenth, twentieth (or other) century, the long durée of modernity
--Teleology, messianicity, eschatology
--Futurity, speculation
--The limits of disciplinarity, canon formation, genre classifications
--Traveling theories
--Archive fever
--The sphere of pure gesture, the domain of pure mediality
--Unfinished revolution(s) and/or modernities
--Insurgencies, multitude
--Marxian general intellect
--Aufhebung, dialectics, dialectical image, constellation
--Remainder, remnant, fragment
--The archive and the witness
--Absolute immanence
--Materialism, life
--The inoperative community, the coming community, the community of the “question”
--The Kantian cognitive faculty
--The imagination
--Impotentiality, desoeuvrement, the inoperativity of language
--The conditional tense—the “could”
--The subjunctive mood
--The meanwhile, the transition, the “taking place”
--Anamnesis, prolepsis, catachresis
--Spectrality, afterness
--Failure, despair, hope
--Epistemic violence, divine violence
--Archeologies of the future
--The literary “post”

Please submit abstracts of approximately 500 words via email by March 20 to with “MLA Panel Submission” in the subject. Questions? Please contact
Alysia Garrison in the English Department at the University of California, Davis.

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Received on Fri Feb 22 2008 - 20:35:57 EST

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