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"Mise-en-Scene: Crime" (Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies special topic)
full name / name of organization:
Department of English, National Taiwan Normal University (Taipei, Taiwan)
Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies
In the beginning was murder. Then came drama: the hair-tearing (or eye-gouging) discovery of one’s own overweening hubris, the inconsolable grieving over the loss of the most basic sense of humanity, and, simply, more killing. Indeed, murderers are significant figures in what Erich Auerbach would call “scenes of drama from European literature”: Cain, Oedipus, Medea, the parricides in Dante’s inferno, and Shakespeare’s army of villains. Acts of killing in these literary texts not only contribute to the excitement of the drama, but also make imperative a rethinking of social order, justice, morality, state power, and human-God relations.
Philosophers have also long relied on scenes of crime to ground their reflections on humanity. René Girard believes that sacrifice was needed for the release of pent-up social violence. Georges Bataille sees community as “founded in the act of killing, in the rupturing of separate existence” (Fred Botting & Scott Wilson). Hegel, Jacques Lacan, and Judith Butler ponder the limit of norms and the viability of ethical claims through the figure of Antigone. Giorgio Agamben posits the figure of the homo sacer (he “who may be killed and yet not sacrificed”) to illustrate the threshold being qua bare life; Agamben even goes so far as to read the concentration camp, an extreme instance of political crime, as the paradigm of modern biopolitics. And for Michel Foucault, the Panopticon prison system symbolizes a new dimension in the modern modality of power, whereas the mass murder committed by the young peasant Pierre Rivière in 1835 helps to elucidate the way in which various modern discursive fields such as the medical, juridical, and historiographical intersected with and confronted one another.
Crime scenes continue to figure prominently in our time, oftentimes in a larger-than-life fashion. The Guantanamo Bay detention and torture of war prisoners exemplifies a sovereignty unbound by law, making one wonder if, in the wake of the 9/11 incident, we must always think of crime in the context of globalization and vice versa. In pop culture, cannibalistic serial killers are ranked among the most fascinating, if not also the smartest, filmic characters. Prime-time crime scene investigation drama series are introducing a new truth regime grounded in forensic science and criminal psychology, to the effect of drastically changing the way we think about human conduct and causality. And the virtual world of online games is to a great extent built on the participant’s imaginary enactment of the role of the criminal and/or crime buster.
For this special issue of Concentric, we invite submissions that investigate the “crime scene” in theoretical discourses. For instance, how are the following issues dealt with in different theorists, by way of the figure of crime—limit, transgression, power, knowledge, life, and ethics? On the stage of today’s worldwide power struggle, is “crime” being redefined thanks to the rise of an inescapably interconnected globe?
We also welcome works that research the genres of crime fiction, crime film, and crime drama in a refreshing light. For example, is the bespectacled detective giving way to the white-robed forensic scientist as the new hero of the social order? Can we read the boom in stories of crime scene investigation and criminal profiling as an indicator of a rational turn in our time? Why is the corpse of the victim increasingly being presented as a familiar, approachable object in these TV and filmic dramas? What kind of repetition compulsion may be at play in the reception of these genres?
Any discussions of the “scene of the crime” in relation to literary, dramatic or cinematic works—including their characters, plots, images, symbols, and ideas—will also be welcome.
Each issue of Concentric publishes groups of essays on a special topic as well as papers on more general issues. The focus can be on any historical period and any region. Any critical method may be employed as long as the paper demonstrates a distinctive contribution to scholarship in the field.
Concentric boasts a strong editorial and advisory team composed of respected scholars from across the world. The journal has also collaborated with international scholars as guest editors, such as Wlad Godzich, María Herrera-Sobek, Serenella Iovino, Shirley Geok-lin Lim, Charles Shepherdson, Scott Slovic, Ban Wang, and Shin Yamashiro. Past contributors include Ronald Lynn Bogue, Vilashini Cooppan, Terry Gifford, Sneja Gunew, Carl Gutiérrez-Jones, Haiyan Lee, Leo Lefebure, Deborah L. Madsen, Steven Shaviro, Hugh J. Silverman, Frank Webster, Rob Wilson, Gang Gary Xu, and Yingjin Zhang.
For our submission guidelines, house style guide, and other information, please visit our website http://www.concentric-literature.url.tw/.
For submissions or general inquiries, please contact us as follows:
Editor, Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies