Derrida's Belle Époque (ACLA 2019)

deadline for submissions: 
September 19, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
ACLA (American Comparative Literature Association) Annual Meeting, March 7-10, 2019, Georgetown University, Washington DC

La Belle Époque, the period of Western history lasting from roughly 1871 to 1914 (though this seminar will not be so strict with periodizations), is often characterized as a time of relative peace and prosperity, before the outbreak of the First World War. But it was also a period of unrest and uncertainty, wavering from ennui to decadence, setting the stage for the birth of psychoanalysis while also undergoing what Edmund Husserl would later call a “crisis of the European sciences.” In a similar way, one might say that the work of Jacques Derrida is also characterized by a certain unrest, which he reveals to be at work already in the figures that he reads from this time: Freud, Nietzsche, Husserl, Saussure, Mallarmé, Valéry, Trakl, and Flaubert, to name a few. At the end of the turn of a new(ish) century, as the myth of another belle époque begins to sour on the tongue, what can Derrida’s readings of this earlier time teach us about beginnings and ends, “turns” of centuries, langue and parole, war and peace, novelty, decadence, etc.? What of Derrida’s perspective can be seen by putting this “époque” into “epoché,” and how does Derrida’s writing inflect how we think about this historical period, or indeed the periodization of history in general? Finally, this topic might also be considered in light of the forthcoming publications of Geschlecht III and the Life Death seminar (both of which in part discuss figures from this time).


Potential topics might include, but are not limited to:


    • The crisis of the sciences or of epistemology in general
    • Decaednce, Symbolism, Expressionism, Surrealism, etc.
    • The “births” of psychoanalysis and/or phenomenology
    • “Turns” of centuries, beginnings and ends
    • Ideas of progress and/or evolution (Darwinism, biology, genetics, scientific racism)
    • War (e.g. the Franco-Prussian War or World War I) and/or Peace
    • The poetics, aesthetics, and politics of “modernity”
    • Rest and unrest

Please submit abstracts through the official ACLA portal.