Media, Medium, Mediation: Media Aesthetics Before 1900 (ACLA 2010)

full name / name of organization: 
Rachel Teukolsky

This seminar proposes to explore the aesthetic effects of early media--understood as "discourse networks," or channels of communication--by unsettling the idea of media itself. What might it mean to see media as medium, mediation, an in-between state, something mixed, or hybrid? Rather than seeing media history as a march of technological innovation, critics now describe emergent and residual media; they look to media in transition, overlapping media, co-existing visions of the retrograde and the futuristic. The idea of "media aesthetics" itself suggests porous boundaries between works of art and means of communication. Walter Benjamin notes that daguerreotypes still retain an aura of originality, even while the rise of photography heralded the eventual obsolescence of high arts. Tom Gunning has advanced the notion of a "cinema of attractions," in which early cinema mimicked the spectacles of other, earlier entertainments.

This panel invites papers from across disciplines and national traditions on media in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Topics might include: newspaper aesthetics; photography and other modes of representation; playing with machines; visual cultures of printing: copper, steel, wood; the book as media object; the aesthetics of knowledge dissemination; serials, periodicals, publicity cycles; media sensations & public spheres; theories of early media: Benjamin, Bourdieu, Kittler, and others; epistemologies of the telegraph; acoustics, gramophones, poetics, music; early cinema and other arts, performances, cultures; seeing words: alphabets, letters, typography; copies, casts, facsimiles, replicas.

The deadline for proposals is November 13, 2009.

Contact Information
The seminar organizer is Rachel Teukolsky, English Department, Vanderbilt University. Proposals should be submitted via the ACLA website (see below); questions about the seminar can be directed to rachel dot teukolsky at vanderbilt dot edu.

How to Submit a Proposal
Paper proposals (which include a short author bio and an abstract of no more than 250 words) should be submitted via the ACLA website:

Additional information about the proposal process can be found here:

About the ACLA conference
The ACLA's annual conferences have a distinctive structure in which most papers are grouped into twelve-person seminars that meet two hours per day for the three days of the conference to foster extended discussion. Some eight-person (or smaller) seminars meet just the first two days of the conference. This structure allows each participant to be a full member of one seminar, and to sample other seminars during the remaining time blocks. The conference also includes plenary sessions, workshops and roundtable discussions, a business meeting, a banquet, and other events.

The ACLA will convene in New Orleans from April 1 - 4, 2010. The conference theme is "Creoles, Diasporas, Cosmopolitanism." See the ACLA website for additional information: