Theory/Post-Theory: An Interdisciplinary Conference April 18th, 2014

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The Graduate Students Association of the Department of Rhetoric, University of California, Berkeley

University of California, Berkeley
April 18th, 2014
Keynote Address: Professor David N. Rodowick (Chicago)

The Department of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley is pleased to invite papers that investigate the role, value, and efficacy of theory in the contemporary humanities and social sciences.

Theory, along with its periodical, concomitant "Post-Theory" moments, has provided the staging ground for debates over the methodological structure and interpretive purchase of disciplines such as literature and film, while also acting as the site of interventions into the epistemological and ethical assumptions which undergird the humanistic disciplines and the sciences. By its very nature, theory both contests and is contested, and as such, is subject to constant self-criticism and revision. As a method for examining not just the content but the very nature of a text qua text, theory has provided the necessary space for critical interventions into the ways in which the humanistic disciplines are produced and reproduced; as a body of texts with its own rhetorical, discursive, and historical traditions, it is itself a product constantly subject to critique and, ultimately, the site of new interventions. "Theory," as both a method and a particular body of texts, thus seems to exist always in a state of critique, and as critique, to be concerned always with what comes after.

Terry Eagleton dates theory's "golden age"—the days of Althusser, Lacan, and Lévi-Strauss, among many others—between 1965 and 1980. This conference aims to investigate whether theory has indeed come to an end, and if so, to ask: not just why did it end, but how could such an end be possible? If it is the case that we live in a 'Post-Theory' age, what comes after theory? What is left of theory as a disciplinary and interdisciplinary method after a particular set of texts has seen its influence wane? In this light, perhaps it is better to speak not of a monolithic "Theory," but of theories. We might ask: what are the prevailing theories of today? What purposes do they serve, both intentional and unintentional? What is the relationship between theory and interdisciplinarity? What role, if any, can theory play in the future of humanistic inquiry?

The keynote address will be delivered by Professor David N. Rodowick (Chicago) followed by a faculty roundtable with Professors Catherine Malabou (Kingston), Mary Ann Doane (Berkeley), and Martin Jay (Berkeley).

With these broad issues in mind, we invite papers on the following themes and topics:

-Reflections on the configuration of academic disciplines and the future of interdisciplinarity
-Interventions in theoretical discourses
-The methodological and disciplinary form of theory in the 21st century
-Critical genealogies of theory in the humanities
-The relationship between theoretical discourses and new media, digital technology, discourse networks and systems theory
-The role of the sciences and/or Science and Technology Studies in contemporary theory -Reconsiderations of the Frankfurt School, and/or critical theory writ large
-The epistemological (or non-epistemological) grounding of theory
-What theory produces in terms of knowledge and discourses
-Theoretical readings of cultural objects

Abstracts of 300 words or less can be sent to on or prior to February 14th, 2014. Please include name, title, institutional affiliation, and a brief academic biography. If possible, please also indicate whether your presentation has A/V requirements. Presentations should last between 15 and 20 minutes.

This event is co-sponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities.