CFP: Saying the Unsayable: Examining Discursive Silence in American Literature (grad) (1/5/07; McGill, 3/10/07-3/11/07)

full name / name of organization: 
Kristin Moriah

New Worlds, Lost Worlds: Discovery, Change, and Loss in Literature
13th Annual Graduate Conference on Language and Literature: McGill
University, Montreal

March 10-11, 2007

This call for papers is for a panel to be held at New Worlds, Lost Worlds: Discovery, Change, and Loss in Literature, the McGill Graduate Conference on Language and Literature, which will take place March 10th to 11th, 2007 at McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.



Saying the Unsayable: Examining Discursive Silence in American Literature



This panel seeks to explore how an understanding of discursive silences affects our interpretation of texts. Ludwig Wittgenstein famously posited that 'what we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence'. His thesis has massive implications for the study of historical literature. Jamesian scholar David McWhiter argues that "the unsayable is a function of historically specific discursive and representational structures, structures like the realist novel, that often work to exclude as 'unnatural' and hence unutterable alternative forms of knowledge, experience, and desire". Such lacunae were common in nineteenth-century American stage productions and literature that dealt with hot topics like as race, class and gender. Thus, McWhirter's claims underscore a larger and incredibly important phenomenon in American literature - discursive silence. How does one say the unsayable? Can the realist novel, or any novel, reflect events that defy articulation? How do the silences pro!
 mpted by such events affect the reading of historical literature? What kind of discursive modes of understanding are prompted by evasion and obscuring? How do the anti-discursive and extra-linguistic ramifications of power shape communicative acts? If silence itself a form of articulation who gets to say what?



Possible paper topics might consider:



- loopholes of meaning in the realist novel


- slave narratives and autobiographies


- theatrical gestures and performativity


- sins of omission vs. sins of commission


- silences prompted by etiquette and propriety


- gendered silence and reticence


- bridging the gap between oral and written traditions



Please send paper proposals (300 words) or questions to Kristin Moriah (kristin.moriah (at) by January 5, 2007.


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Received on Sat Dec 09 2006 - 17:47:52 EST