ACLA 2012: Reading the Unsaid of Women Writing War

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American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA)
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"We might say that to speak the age, it would be enough for such a man to stammer-stutter; the age belongs to stammering, to stuttering. Or rather, stuttering is the only 'language' of the age."
– Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Poetry as Experience

After tragedy, being is caught in a shock wave, whose vibrations resonate through the literature, poetry, and testimony of the early twentieth century. The sayable is constituted and accompanied by the unsayble. Disrupted and fractured, left with gaps and aporias, language of trauma often is rendered in a poetic stammering and stuttering in the wake of disaster. And yet, Marguerite Duras insists that "As soon as one is lost with nothing left to write, to lose, one writes."

This panel seeks to explore the ways in which the unsayable invades the sayable, paying particular attention to the gestures in women's writing that register complex and subtle assertions of language, communication, and even metaphysics in the wake of the catastrophic, examining what Cathy Caruth identifies as "a language that is always somehow literary: a language that defies, even as it claims, our understanding." Through papers interested in the silences, gaps, stammers and stutters, syncopes and caesuras, we will investigate how silence serves to open important spaces for knowing. We seek papers on women's writing on World War I, the Spanish Civil War, World War II, and with attention paid to what cannot be said.

All paper proposals must be submitted through te ACLA conference website:

Seminar Organizer(s):
Leah Souffrant (Graduate Center, CUNY), Ashley Foster (Graduate Center, CUNY)