Silent and Ineffable: Functions of the Unsaid in Literature and the Humanities. Nov. 26-27th, 2010

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National Taipei University of Technology, Taiwan
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"Love, and be silent," Cordelia says in Act One. To some, Cordelia's verbal intransigence toward Lear marks her as proud and stiff-necked, to others as truth incarnate. Without doubt, it is her silence that sets the drama into motion, and the question of whether it issues from a refusal or from an inability to speak constitutes an interpretive crux of Shakespeare's play. Cordelia's silence can be taken to exemplify countless other instances where the meaning, structure and intensity of a literary work hinge on the significance of that which remains unsaid. It is also closely related to a long line of thinking which regards silence as a particularly effective gesture at ultimate meanings, a line that is continued today in the ritualized silences by which we commemorate the victims of wars or disasters, but which also harks back to the various forms of monastic silence and early religious taboos. If silence can be a form of respect, it can also be the sign of a pathology, and in the contemporary field of trauma studies, the failure to speak is considered as crucial to the psychological mechanisms by which anguish propagates itself from one generation to the next. Modernist poetics assigned a central role to silence, as did 20th-century philosophy. Wittgenstein's famous conclusion to the Tractatus—"Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must remain silent"—is an example of silence functioning either as an index of the Ineffable or as a willfully disciplined limit to philosophic thinking for moral purposes. Heidegger's silent "call of conscience" is another example of an ambiguous silence since he describes it as a "mode" of speech.
In this conference we are interested in interrogating silence in all its dimensions, of which the august Ineffable is but one. Conferees are invited to discuss any number of ways in any number of fields in which silence plays a role within, or represents a 'beyond' of, the sayable. Such topics may include, but are not limited to:
— The silencing of the Other by hegemonic discourses as theorized by feminist, postcolonial, or ecological criticism
— Kafka's "The Silence of the Sirens"
— Silence in film: the silent era and after
— The role of silence within a harmonious marriage: the La Princess de Clèves debate
— Spoken silence: language and un-saying in Beckett, Joyce, or Henry Miller
— Silence in the mystical and monastic traditions
— The role of silence in intergenerational trauma
— The silencing of silence: John Cage and the impossibility of silence
— Non-verbal arts: sculpture, architecture, painting
— Verbal versus visual expression in mixed-media art
— Dramatic pauses and non-verbal expression in the theatre
— Reading "between the lines"
— The (Miranda) right to remain silent: the fifth amendment of the US constitution
— The silent majority as a political concept

Keynote Speakers:
— Gabriele Schwab (UC Irvine)
— Leland de la Durantaye (Harvard)

Abstracts should be 250-300 words und sent to us by August 1st, 2010.
Please email the abstract using the abstract submission form that as available for download at the website of the NTUT Department: OR the
online form on the same site.
Participants will be notified by August 15. The deadline for the submission of the completed paper is November 11.