"The Violence of the Image," April 26-27, 2012

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Department of Comparative Literature, State University of New York at Buffalo
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"The Violence of the Image," Second Annual Comparative Literature Graduate Conference, State University of New York at Buffalo

Although the tradition of thinking about the image in philosophy and aesthetics goes all the way back to Plato and Aristotle there have recently been numerous critical approaches that depart from this tradition and envision the image as neither a copy of a copy nor as an ideological formation. The Graduate Conference “The Violence of the Image” seeks to further these new insights into the nature of the image.

According to Jean-Luc Nancy the image is commonly seen as both violent in itself – thanks to their all-presence we are incessantly “bombarded” with images – and as being party to the violence of war and exploitation. By definition, this conviction regards the image as representing and representative of a fundamentally obscene gaze. Thus, popular voices are always quick to call for a limitation of such “atrocity images.” The limitation and restriction of images is, however, among the primary concerns and manifestations of power. While certain images are widely circulated, other kinds of images are severely censored and invalidated as obscene, decorative, fantastic, or meaningless.

In rethinking the image we would like to ask: What does the violence of this image consist in and what violence is, in turn, exerted upon the image? What is the relationship between symbolic violence and the violence of inscription? In analogy to the linguistic turn, we propose an “imagistic turn,” a reconsideration of the ways we handle images and their potential to not merely blind and distract but to serve as a mirror, a shield, and as fuel to the imagination. The image is always more than an image, more than a mere document or representation. In it "the thing presents itself" (Nancy) and beckons us to look. This call to look is what defines the image more than anything else. It requires that we stare, describe, and steep down to the grain of the image.

The complexity of the image seems to lie in its double nature. Images always produce an effect and its simultaneous negation: object and imaginary, horror and beauty, fact and fetish, truth and lie coexist in it. In the language of psychoanalysis this is the “tear image” which Sigmund Freud encounters in his dream of Irma’s injection. Freud’s dream shows that the violence of the image also consists in its dislocation of the subject and its simultaneous presentation of a shred of the real. Our “ability” to access the real thus comes at the price of subjectivity and yet to know, as French critic George Didi-Huberman puts it, we must imagine. Or, in the words of Samuel Beckett, “Imagination dead imagine.”

Papers and presentations from the disciplines of Literature, Art, Psychoanalysis, Cinema Studies, Philosophy, History, Theology, Political Science, and Gender & Queer Studies are welcome. We also welcome papers from other disciplines as well as from practicing artists. Please submit your 300-word abstract to violenceoftheimage@gmail.com by February 1, 2012.

Topics for papers may include:

• the image in literature
• metaphor, trope, metonymy
• mimesis and the violence of representation
• image and language/word, illustration, intertextuality
• theories of ideogrammatic literature
• imagism, language, concrete poetry
• Walter Benjamin, W.J.T. Mitchell, W.G. Sebald

Art and Art Theory
• visual archives
• art after Auschwitz
• abstraction
• video and performance
• Jacques Derrida’s The Truth in Painting
• Roland Barthes, Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss
• Walid Raad, R. H. Quaytman, Robert Heinecken, Sharon Hayes

Film and New Media

• avant-garde cinema, New Wave and Surrealism
• movement-image, time-image
• virtual reality, cyberspace
• cinematic desire
• montage, bricolage, assemblage
• pornography, obscenity, and the gaze
• spectatorship, observation, and perception
• horror, thrill, shock
• Siegfried Kracauer, Joan Copjec, Gilles Deleuze, Slavoj Žižek

Politics, Ethics, Trauma
• atrocity photographs, war and witnessing
• psychoanalysis and the image; the Lacanian tear image
• the constitution of the subject as image
• institutions, power, and constructions of experience
• religion and the image, images of the sacred, iconology and incarnation
• the faculty of imagination and the politics of affect
• the afterimage

• Jean-Paul Sartre and the imagination
• rhetoric and the role of the philosophical image
• the crisis of representation
• the violence of framing
• truth and the image
• phenomenology, metaphysics, and epistemology of the image
• Maurice Blanchot, George Bataille, Jean-Luc Nancy

cfp categories: 
modernist studies