Diffractive Reading

deadline for submissions: 
February 16, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Prof. Dr. Kai Merten, University of Erfurt
contact email: 

Following a lecture-cum-workshop in January 2017 with Birgit Kaiser and Kathrin Thiele on the topic of “Diffraction” in Erfurt, the Erfurt Research Network on New Materialism (ENNM) developed an interest in the idea of reading literary (and other) texts diffractively. Therefore, we are looking for contributions for a book proposal for the Book Series New Critical Humanities (series editors Birgit M. Kaiser, Timothy O’Leary and Kathrin Thiele), at Rowman & Littlefield International. The publication will be an edited volume of articles on the notion of “Diffractive Reading”. Using “diffraction”, we follow both Karen Barad’s quantum-physical usage of the term in Meeting the Universe Halfway (2007) and extensions of ‘diffraction’ as developed by Birgit Kaiser and others in a recent issue of Parallax (20.3, 2014). Reading diffractively, therefore, may include (but is in no way limited to):

  • involving (or diffracting) a cultural text’s representational order with its own materiality, seen as inseparable from it
  • confronting/interspersing literary (or other) texts directly with other texts or media, while neither of the two (or more) can be seen as “pre-existing their encounters in a comparison” (Kaiser, 276)
  • diffracting your own reading with(in) the text(s) you are reading, so that text and reading can be seen as onto-epistemologically entangled

Your diffractive readings should be experimental, risky, vulnerable ‘things’, not showing where matter’s or another text’s/medium’s presence is reflected in the text but rather following or putting into play where text(s) and matter meet, where text(s) (and matter) intersperse, crossing (out) but also establishing each other. We aim at readings which look for sovereignty neither in the text’s involvement with other texts/matter nor in the critical stance developed to describe diffraction. Beyond (common uses of) literary critical paradigms such as translation, intertextuality or dialogicity, we want to see the encountered text(s) or matter(s) at hand not as re-flected, processed or otherwise subjected and silenced in the encountering text (or reading) but as diffracted – being (materially) present (only) in the involvement and modifying themselves as well as the other. Our plan is to put together a book proposal later this year, so what we are looking for now are titles and short abstracts (ca. 2000 characters) for essays of about 45.000 to 60.000 characters in length (articles to be submitted towards the end of the year 2018).