full name / name of organization: 
Department of English, University of Malta

Inaugural Event, International Literary Criticism and Theory Conference Series
University of Malta, Old University Building, Valletta, Malta

Confirmed Speakers:
Catherine Belsey
Simon Critchley
Stefan Herbrechter
Giuseppe Mazzotta
Laurent Milesi
Jean-Michel Rabaté

Ivan Callus, James Corby, Gloria Lauri-Lucente

Contact E-Mail:


Call for Papers

"… one has to be in possession of literature."
—Jean-Luc Nancy
"…truth demands a laborious science without style."
—Jean-Luc Nancy

The two epigraphs to the conference—neither of which lacks disingenuousness—mark the tensions that have long existed between philosophy and literature over the question of style. Is Theory really the discourse to think through, perhaps even to impossibly resolve, those tensions? As a discourse arguably more hospitable than most to the "writer philosopher," with investments both in "the impassive jouissance of science" (Nancy) and in "the surprise of writing itself" (Leavey), theory countenances the idea of "truth with style." It is possibly the discourse that has come closest to the dream of a writing that would be neither philosophy nor literature, but that would retain the memory of both (Derrida).

That, at least, is one of the stories theory tells itself. It is a complex story, because the place of style in theory is the question and history of the relations between philosophy, literature, and theory. In reopening that question and that history, this conference attempts re-articulations that appear particularly urgent now, when more than ever there is a keen awareness of writing's different mediations and of the singularities that it plurally carries.

And so, once again—style, in theory:

What, in theory, is style?
What is the role and place of style(s) in theory, in the writing practice of theory?
Is theory style, and is this the same thing as saying it is stylized?
Has theory gone out of style, never (or about) to return?
Can theory be restyled?
Style, in theory—is that the question of theory, and of theory's future in the age of new media?

The conference organizers invite abstracts for papers that explore these and related issues. The following additional points may serve as further invitations to thinking through the place of style in theory:

• Is there a particular style—or styles, or patterns of stylization—proper to theory? Might this question be reframed in terms of the relation between le mode and la mode of theory?

• Who are the theorists of style? What claims do they make for theory's style? Is there, in effect, a canon of texts that think through the place of style in theory? What is there to be said anew about the rationale, the rhetoric, the history, the politics of that canon, assuming it exists at all?

• Was theory really ever interested in style? With a number of notable exceptions, style contrives to be passed over in many commentaries of and on theory, its challenge not as explicitly addressed as might be expected. Is this explainable by speculating that style might actually be incidental to theory, conditional instead upon that towards which theory in each instance turns its gaze?

• If the aim of philosophy has often appeared to be the achievement of a style-less writing, whereas literature has been the discourse marked by the cultivation and development of style, was it always theory's agenda to speak a certain philosophical commitment with and to style? If so, then the presentation of theory—theory's style(s)—can perhaps be understood as definitional of theory. Can theory be understood as a re-mapping of the traditional borders of Darstellung and Dichtung? If so, how does this characterize the relationship between writing theory and styling theory?

• If style is signature, and if style always finds itself within the order of the singular, what are the implications for thinking the style(s) of theory—this discourse that has significant investments in thinking through the singular?

• Who are the authors who cultivate, develop and theorize style as their signature? How do their literary works illuminate style in theory and theory in style?

• If the style of theory always "goes before it" and style is always implicitly recognizable, does this imply that style (and perhaps theory) is subordinate to an already existing aesthetic outlook? If this is so, and the recognition of style is taken to be inherently assimilative and open to recuperation, is it possible to speak of the style of singularity or the style of the event? What are the implications in this regard for the popular positioning of theory as operating from a critically interrogative "non-lieu"?

• If we supposedly live, read, and write in a time "after theory," why should the question of theory's past, present, and future styles still be considered urgent?

• Is there a dialectics of the posthumous in play when raising the question of style in theory? Are we simply commemorating a particular "generation," or "a highpoint" of theory, or even an entire episteme when exploring the question of style in the wake of theory? What are we mourning, and what are we in wait of, when reopening the question of style in theory?

• How does the question of style, in theory, now find itself related to "the post-humanities of tomorrow?"

• If style is invested in writing as techne, how might the question of style, in theory, be reframed in the age of new media—in these times of greater critical attunement to what has been called technesis, of the quickly multiplying and reinvented resources of "electric language," and of unprecedented manifestations of "archive fever"? How, in effect, is theory—the discourse on the letter—restyling itself in this digital age?

• Is style, in theory, post-style, post-theory?

Abstracts for papers, preferably stylishly brief, should be sent to by 30 June 2009, copied to the addresses below. The organizers will also be glad to respond to questions about the conference.