Linguistic (Re)Turns

deadline for submissions: 
September 19, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
ACLA 2019 - American Comparative Literature Association
contact email: 

"Linguistic (Re)Turns"

Organizers: Sara Ceroni (University of Massachusetts Amherst) and Luke Mueller (Bentley University) 

One might argue that the study of literature and culture in the 20th and 21st centuries is inseparable from its turns to language. Following I.A. Richards’s turn to Bertrand Russell, De Man’s to Derrida, and Judith Butler’s to J.L. Austin, critics have used language philosophy and linguistic analysis to undergird claims about literature and its readers. Postcolonial critics such as Said, Spivak, and Bhabha have transformed post-structuralist linguistic theories, showing how power has informed colonial thought and practices to shape global cultures. Latin American decolonial scholars (Quijano, Lugones, Mignolo) have revealed the impact of the “coloniality of power,” expressed through the political and economic spheres, on knowledge production, loci of enunciation, modes of representation, and translation. Both postcolonialism and decoloniality have foregrounded the centrality of language in the rise of particular notions of nationhood, race, and ethnicity, as well as in the emergence of national literary traditions, academic disciplines, and methodologies, opening up numerous possibilities for comparative, transnational, and global studies.

As these linguistic approaches expand to account for wider ranges of aesthetic, cultural, political, and national experiences across the globe, they also breed resistance. Many of today’s theories turn away from linguistic analysis, and “post-critical” styles are gaining steam. In this panel, we will explore the persistence of linguistic theories and philosophies in current literary and cultural studies, attending to the confluences and tensions between linguistic turns (and re-turns) and established or alternative theoretical paradigms (New Historicism, New Materialism, postcolonial and decolonial theories, Critical Race Theory, etc.). These intersections will catalyze a conversation aimed at reframing comparative approaches to literary and cultural studies today.

We welcome proposals on all topics, from all fields that think theoretical issues through aesthetic and cultural objects and practices, showing the returns on reading and criticism afforded by linguistic analysis.


Topics and questions may include:

     - The roles of different models of language, or different histories or genealogies of language in our understanding of literary and cultural texts

     - What can one do or not do with language? With literature?

     - Linguistic analysis in political speech and hashtag movements (#blacklivesmatter, #metoo), and in digital environments (online trolls and artificial bots)

     - What are the potentials and limits of language in relation to “sense and sensibilia” (Austin) or “the sensible” (Rancière)?

     - What things, objects, and expressions revolve around language? How far does language go toward understanding non-linguistic objects? 

     - What are the implications of a return to language for comparative, world, and globalized literary studies today?


The full CFP can be seen at the ACLA submission portal:

Proposals may be submitted between August 30th and September 19th, 2018 using the link above. This panel is contingent on approval by the ACLA. If you have questions, please contact the organizers:, or