Literary Form and Potentiality - ACLA 2020, Chicago, March 19-22

deadline for submissions: 
September 23, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Michael Swacha
contact email: 

“Literary Form and Potentiality” 

ACLA 2020, Chicago, March 19-22


This seminar will explore the relationship between literary form and the concept of potentiality. Through our papers and discussions, our hope is to come to a deeper sense of how form may hold certain kinds of possibility for imagining or even enacting new modes of political, personal, and/or communal/cooperative life.  In other words, this seminar seeks to open a discussion about what literary form has to offer, perhaps beyond what a text is “about,” where instead texts, in sometimes explicit and at other times subtler (but arguably just as significant) ways, reveal or even themselves function as cracks in dominant modes of discourse, knowledge, and power, and allow for an opening to new horizons of being and relationality. We might therefore generally ask: In what ways do the notions of literary form and potentiality intersect? How do different ways of thinking about this intersection posit alternative, competing, or simultaneous modes of interaction between these notions? Would we go so far as to suggest that potentiality is a concept inherent in literary form as such? What does this intersection do, or allow us to do, either as scholars or as beings in the world?

Papers might range from exploring this relationship at the general, theoretical level articulated here, to specific case studies found in literature, culture, and philosophy. Presenters are encouraged to bring their own theoretical and literary areas of expertise (region, period, etc.) into their papers so that the seminar might approach the intersection between literary form and potentiality from as many angles as possible, and so as to discuss and experience the wide range of possibilities that might unfold.

Papers topics might address (as examples, but are not limited to):

  • Recent returns to literary form in “new formalisms,” etc.
  • Long-standing political and aesthetic formalisms such as Marxist critique or Russian formalism 
  • Philosophical/linguistic engagements such as Giorgio Agamben’s work on potentiality and language
  • Avant-garde forms in literature and art
  • The possibility/impossibility of form; the form of possibility/impossibility
  • Specific moments of potentiality found in the form of specific texts
  • Potentiality and the forms of literary criticism


Paper proposals can be uploaded via the session's link above.  ACLA's deadline for paper proposal submissions is 9am EST on Monday, September 23. For questions about the session, please email the seminar organizer at