ACLA 2012 Seminar: Critique of Singularity: On the Iteration of Catastrophe

full name / name of organization: 
Isabel Capeloa Gil & Daniela Agostinho (Catholic University of Portugal)

ACLA 2012: Collapse/Catastrophe/Change

The American Comparative Literature Association's 2012 Annual Meeting will take place at Brown University, Providence, RI from March 29th to April 1st, 2012.

Seminar Organizers: Isabel Capeloa Gil & Daniela Agostinho (Catholic University of Portugal)

At a time of generalized crisis, when the discourse of calamity, from economics to politics and the environment, seems to have become the new master narrative of the 21st century, it is particularly relevant and timely to engage in a critical appraisal of the rhetoric of catastrophe and discuss its impact and effects. Moreover, it also useful to discuss the way literature contributes to shape social and cultural perceptions of a disastrous future. Although literature is singular and tends to stress the singularity of any given catastrophic event, the fact of the matter is that notwithstanding the factual contingency, the specific materiality of the medium of representation and its creative uniqueness, there are rhetorical figurations that travel across time and space and contest representational singularity. It needs to be argued that singularity does not simply pertain to what is unique and unrepeatable, it is not a property, but rather the result of an event (Attridge, 2004:64) that is culturally and socially produced. Yet, even though the representation of different catastrophes may partake of similar rhetorical tropes, they are never identical and work their differences by means of an iteration without overlapping. Without denying either the uniqueness of the aesthetic or the situatedness of the event, the seminar on the critique of singularity wishes to challenge the narrative of exceptionality at the roots of national figurations of disaster and understand the role played by representation in the processing of catastrophe in modernity.

Please note that ACLA seminars take place over 2-3 days with 8-12 participants; members are expected to attend all seminar sessions.

Please submit abstracts up to 350 words to Isabel Gil( and Daniela Agostinho( by 15 November 2011. Feel free to contact the organizers with any questions you may have.