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CFP: Midwest MLA Special Session, November 8-11, 2012 - "Writing the Ineffable: Mystic Literature and the Limits(?) of Language"
full name / name of organization:
Morgan Shipley / Michigan State University
In The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James informs us that the mystical state operates in an ineffable realm and, as such, language remains incapable of accurately narrating or textualizing the mystical experience. And yet, mystical literature has attempted to find expression for what, ostensibly, can be described as an absence, a lack, a debt within the normative structures of communicative and discursive language. If the mystical experience inhabits a landscape beyond the limits and borders of language, how do writers find the words to describe the ineffable? How do form, word-play, negative dialectics and deconstructive tendencies help structure, out of an absence, a mystic analysis or language of unity? In what ways does writing the ineffable expose the limits of discursive language and thought?
To engage these questions, and more, this panel seeks to address the relationship between literature, mysticism, and the limits of language and writing from a wide range of perspectives and sources, including, but not limited to, the poetic (Blake, Coleridge, Whitman, W.H. Auden, for example), the theological (Plotinus, Meister Eckhart, St. Theresa of Avila, Emerson, for example) the fictional (Hermann Hesse, Aldous Huxley, Edgar Allen Poe for example) and the critical or philosophical (Nietzsche, Bataille, Derrida, Foucault for example). Such sources and methodologies (from literary criticism to philosophy to classic mystic texts) provides both attendees and presenters with space to consider the interplay, and problems, associated with spiritual positions, literature and critical hermeneutics.