CFP: Knowledge and the Grey Zone: Limit Situations and the Human Condition (11/30/05; ACLA, 3/23/06-3/26/06)

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American Comparative Literature Association Conference 2006
(Princeton University, March 23-26)


Knowledge and =E2=80=98the Grey Zone=E2=80=99: Limit Situations and the Hum=
an Condition

Seminar Organizer(s): Colman Hogan, Victoria College, University of Toronto=
Marta Marin-Domine, Wilfrid Laurier University
On numerous occasions Primo Levi -survivor, writer, practicing chemist- =20
frames his understanding of the concentration camp experience in terms of a=20=
laboratory=E2=80=9D. Assaying that metaphor and catalyzing its permutations,=
 Levi states=20
that the limit experiences brought to light there are =E2=80=9Cpregnant, ful=
l of =20
significance=E2=80=A6[ask] more questions than=E2=80=A6[they answer]=E2=80=
=A6sum up=E2=80=A6the entire theme of =20
the grey zone and=E2=80=A6[leave] one dangling=E2=80=9D. In such limit exper=
iences =E2=80=9Cit is =20
possible,=E2=80=9D he claims, =E2=80=9Cto recognize in an exemplary form the=
 almost physical =20
necessity with which political coercion gives birth to that ill-defined sphe=
 of ambiguity and compromise,=E2=80=9D what he calls a =E2=80=9Cterrible=E2=
=80=9D but =E2=80=9C
indecipherable=E2=80=9D world which must be, =E2=80=9Cif possible, understo=
od=E2=80=9D. Hypothesizing the=20
validity of Levi=E2=80=99s metaphor, our panel proposes to examine the natu=
re of the=20
knowledge that arises out of such =E2=80=9Cexperiments=E2=80=9D and experie=
nces of the limit.=20
Examinations of these grey zones raise a series of profound epistemological=
ethical, representational and linguistic questions: what can be known of su=
ch =20
experiences; how can they be articulated; what are our needs and obligations=
with respect to them? Since we deem knowledge to be primarily an effect of =20
retroaction, we do not seek to limit the panel=E2=80=99s discussion to the S=
hoah; rather,=20
we believe that the conditio inhumana made manifest there constitutes a =20
lens, albeit grey, for every articulation of knowledge of the human conditio=
n =20
confronted with the non-human of a limit situation.=20

The paper proposals (maximum 250 words) should be submitted by November 30 =20
through the=20
ACLA web-site: _
( . All=20
inquiries may be directed to Marta Marin-Domine, _mmarin_at_wlu.ca_=20

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Received on Tue Nov 08 2005 - 17:12:38 EST