"Are Ghosts Unnatural" ISSN 2014 Panel

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2014 ISSN Conference (March 27-30, 2014 in Cambridge, MA)

Ghosts occupy a marginal position in unnatural narrative; instead of being considered in their strangeness, they are frequently naturalized through questions of genre. Violations of time, space, or causality have been privileged over the supernatural and paranormal in foundational texts of unnatural narratology. For instance, Brian Richardson distinguishes between truly unnatural "anti-mimetic" texts and more "traditional" "non-mimetic" texts, which still rely on realist conventions. This panel seeks to counteract that division, bringing studies of spectrality and unnatural narrative together to demonstrate the radical denaturalizing potential of ghosts in narrative.

As Henrik Skov Nielsen suggests in A Poetics of Unnatural Narrative, unnatural elements in narrative may be more productively examined by the use of "unnaturalizing reading strategies" than by naturalizing or familiarizing approaches. Using this framework, we seek to understand how ghosts suggest different modes of reading. Diegetic ghosts can signal the necessity of thinking and reading in terms of spectrality, denaturalizing the textual world and its components, as well as the physical book itself. Ghosts point to a fundamentally destabilized materiality, questioning the way that readers conceive of desire, embodiment, and textuality. Indeed, if writing itself is always the space of excess, of proliferative and evacuated meaning, then spectrality and writing are inextricably linked. Derrida's "trace" embeds this haunting within any textual event, reminding us that the word both exists and always evaporates before our eyes. Putting discussions of unnatural narrative in conversation with the deconstructive focus on spectrality, excess, and remainder, this panel considers how the ghost forces us to reconsider the cohesiveness of narrative as such.

We welcome papers that consider ghosts and haunting, with a diversity of approaches that may include narrative theoretical, deconstructive, or other frameworks, from any period or location. Please submit 200 word abstracts to hoffman.783@osu.edu or jessica.pfeffer@tufts.edu by October 10, 2013. You must also include a short (100 word) biographical statement. This panel will be proposed to the 2014 ISSN Conference held in Cambridge, MA March 27-30.

keywords: ghost, specter, spectrality, phantasm, paranormal, unnatural, reading strategies, textuality, Derrida, narrative