CFP: The Point of the Human: Gestures, Intentionality, and the Possibilities of Literary Criticism (11/30/05; ACLA, 3/23/06-3/26

full name / name of organization: 
paul north
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The Point of the Human: Gestures, Intentionality, and the =20
Possibilities of Literary Criticism

a seminar at the

American Comparative Literature Association 2006 Annual Meeting

"The Human and Its Others" at Princeton University, March 23-26, 2006

Deadline for Submissions: November 30, 2005

According to one etymology, the English word "man" shares a common =20
root with the Latin word for hand (manus.) Handiness is not first of =20
all a definition of the human. Rather it functions as a gesture; the =20
hand points to the human. But, insofar as it merely points, it also =20
points away, including animals and things in its sweep. Not only do =20
the ape's gestures ape the human, but humans imitate the non-=20
signifying movements of animals and other natural phenomena. Such =20
movements pose so grave a threat to human reason that Plato had to =20
exclude the mimetic dancer, along with the poet, from the polis.

This gives a sense of what is at stake when theorists such as Walter =20
Benjamin, Max Kommerell, Theodore Adorno, and most recently Giorgio =20
Agamben, turn to gesture as a mode of literary criticism, or even as =20
the name of criticism itself. Gesture, it seems, would answer to the =20
hope, so vital to the project of criticism in the twentieth century, =20
that criticism could evade the limits imposed by its traditional =20
subordination to humanism and, going beyond hermeneutic, formalist, =20
or even ideological reductions of the text to meaning, approach a =20
dimension of the text in which language --- and with language, the =20
designation of the human being as the rational, linguistic animal =20
---- confronts its own limits, and even perhaps its failure.

This seminar will address the question of gesture. Is gesture a sign =20
of the human, or does it ask the human finally to sign off? How is =20
the living being that gestures distinct from the z=C5=8Don logon ex=C5=8Dn=
, =20
the living being with language? Does gesture make sense? And finally, =20=

what promise does gesture hold as a figure for literary criticism, or =20=

even for thought itself?

We encourage potential participants to send papers that treat the =20
question of gesture or engage in gestural criticism of texts or other =20=

works of art.

Possible topics include: dance and literature; the non-signifying or =20
the almost-signifying; flirtation; body language; vulgarity, rudeness =20=

and the political; reading without words; the image, ekphrasis, and =20
apostrophe; gesture and trope; gesture in the Baroque; commas, =20
categories, and syncategories; composition and disposition in visual =20
art; the intention of phenomenology and the phenomenality of =20
intention; winks and warnings: poetry and the future.

To submit an abstract, please visit the American Comparative =20
Literature Association's website:

For more information, please contact seminar organizers Anthony Adler =20=

( or Paul North (

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Received on Thu Nov 03 2005 - 12:46:29 EST