CFP: Sade and Contemporary Theory (6/30/07; collection)

full name / name of organization: 
Masha C Mimran (mmimran_at_Princeton.EDU)
contact email: 

"Since de Sade and the death of God, the universe of language has absorbed our sexuality, denatured it, placed it in a void where it establishes its sovereignty and where it incessantly sets up as the Law the limits it transgresses" (Foucault, Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews. 1977, p. 50).
In 1947, shortly after WWII, Edition du Soleil released a book by Pierre Klossowski entitled Sade, My Neighbour. Klossowski's analysis of sadism prompted other post-war thinkers to take Sade seriously. Georges Bataille, Simone de Beauvoir, Maurice Blanchot, Adorno, Roland Barthes, Guy Debord, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, André Breton, and Philippe Sollers – all searched in Sade, the 'father of evil,' for the key to human nature. In 1966, Simone de Beauvoir asked philosophically, "Shall We Burn de Sade?", thus following the general consensus of the intellectual elites of the time: Sade's writings needed to be re-examined in light of what just happened in Europe. Indeed, it was no accident that interest in Sade's writing rose after the most atrocious event in contemporary history. Sade's libertines, drenched in their elaborate and highly rationalized rituals of pain, death and violence, were seen as an emblem and prototype of fascist cruel rationality. But by the early of
1960s, the relationship to Sade slightly changed. He came to be seen as a political writer whose objective was to expose the fundamental arbitrariness of social, political and ethical systems preached by the successive regimes whose coming to power and dissolution he had seen. Thus, Sade's libertine, imprisoned by his commitment to augmenting the pleasures of libertinage, became a symbol for fascism and capitalism, both guided by the same self-destructive drive to subject everything to a "rationality principle" (Adorno).
Recent publication of the complete works of Sade in English for the first time has provoked a number of new Sade films: Marquise de Sade (Gweneth Gibby, US 1996); the 2000 mass-distributed and Oscar-nominated production directed by Philip Kaufman, Quills, and Jacques Benoit's 2002 Sade (all released in the atmosphere of pre 9/11 fin-de-siecle malady of moral relativism). Gibby's Sade is a deprived but "good at heart" romantic who falls in love with his creation, the infamous Juliette (one of Sade's heroines), rescuing her from the murderous hands of the Priest, Judge and police officer. Kauffman's Sade is a romanticized genius unjustly imprisoned in the insane asylum, seeker of truth and passion. Both films present Sade as foremost a writer, writing with his own blood the "most impure tales ever told," and nobly committed to his work more than to himself. All three of the films take the predicament that Sade shows us the limits of morality and the fundamental arbitrariness
of our value systems to redirect us back on the right track of righteousness where murder - whoever performs it, a state or an individual - is always a murder, and in which horror and brutality have their place only in fiction.

Shall we then revive de Sade? In our modern world, in-between sacred and profane, rationality and barbarism, violence and spectacle, does Sade's work can still shed light on law(s), ethics and sexuality? We are looking for papers for an anthology, which addresses the following question: Shall We Revive de Sade? We welcome papers, which treat any aspect of Sade's work through the prism of contemporary critical theory, and social/political events. Possible topics may include:

Sade and Foucault
Sade and Post-Structuralist Ethics
Sade and Agamben
Sade and the Sacred
Sade of Feminism/Post-Feminism
Sade on Film/Theatre
Please send a 600-900 words abstract (2-3 pages double spaced) providing a detailed description of your project, including the sources you will be using, as well as a CV. Abstracts are due June 30 2007. Please send abstracts to Magda Romanska, or Masha Mimran Final versions of your papers should be 25 pages. Specific deadlines to follow. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.
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Received on Fri Apr 13 2007 - 16:23:40 EDT