UCLA Southland Graduate Conference: Negation and Negativity (6.3.2011, Los Angeles)
Negation and Negativity: Theory, Form, and Representation
June 3, 2011
Los Angeles, CA
Sianne Ngai, UCLA Department of English
Joseph Bristow, UCLA Department of English
"You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
"Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?"
-T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land
Un-situated voices in arguably the most canonical poem of the twentieth century tell us everything and nothing: a proliferation of "no's" and negations that compel us to read but also derail our desire for meaning. Yet, however obscure, we can agree that this "nothing" continues to signify, that despite connoting a lack of knowledge or existence it persists in living, that despite being part of a "waste land" it still constitutes material waste.
Articulations of negation and the negative always threaten to produce their own non-existence. How do we even theorize that which appears untheorizable? Negation has been formative to dominant critical discourses from the Hegelian dialectic to the Freudian unconscious, and in recent years has reemerged as the subject of texts considering queer theory and the death drive (Edelman), ideology and capitalism (Zizek), denial and affect (Ver Eacke, Ngai), and politicized bodies (Butler, Agamben). Each of these critical engagements with negation grapples with the unsayable, absent, or at times shapeless nature of the subject but also prompts productive questions. How can negativity be enabling, reified, of further undone? Indeed, is our contemporary cultural life saturated with negativity? For instance, how do gendered and racial acts of erasure from nationalist sentiment to ethnic cleansing function? How does new media negate traditional boundaries and hierarchies? Yet, in what ways is negativity a trans-temporal or trans-historical phenomenon?
Papers may address any aspect of literary and cultural negation including, but not limited to, the following:
-Absence and productivity: authorship, "death of the author," erasure of authority
-Negative feelings: affect, anxiety, depression, melancholy, the sublime
-Genre and form: the gothic, banned books, partial manuscripts, literary waste, the fragment
-Literature and math: nullification, neutrality, negative numbers
-Human bodies: ability and disability, transgression, manipulation and mutilation, trauma
-Negative subjectivity, blankness, and death: deanimation, reanimation, abortion, loss; what substantiates or negates a subject?
-Self-consuming economies: commodity fetishism, the literary marketplace, the labor of reading
-Negative language: the "unsayable," denials, evasions, negative tropes, silences, voids
-Eroticism: negative or excessive desires, the forbidden, the taboo and the fetish, dissonance
-Aesthetic mappings of negativity: photography, film, visual arts
-"Inoperative communities": political alterity and absence
-Technologies of the discipline: acts of inscription or erasure, paying homage, critical disavowals
Abstracts for 20-minute papers and panel proposals are due by Wednesday, 16 March 2011. Please paste the abstract (200-300 words) or panel proposal into the body of an e-mail message and submit to firstname.lastname@example.org. Panels should consist of three papers and may include a respondent. Include your name(s), contact information, department(s), and institution(s). Prospective conference participants will be notified by Friday, 1 April, 2010. The conference will be held at the University of California, Los Angeles.