Different Voices, Voicing Difference (NEMLA 2020)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association

The question of the relation of language to voice traces back to Aristotle’s De interpretatione, with its definition of speech as the sign of thought, and writing the sign of speech. In Jacques Derrida’s account of this phonologocentric model, voice is the ligature of “phōnē and logos,” securing their essential proximity. But if voice is only a mediation, then, as Barbara Johnson writes, voice is no longer “self-identity but self-difference.” Paradoxically, the voice marks the singular but is itself plural, sweeping the self up into an ever-ramifying play of differentiation. As David Lawton proposes, “voice is both a signature, ‘I,’ singularity, and a clear marker of difference, ‘not I,’ multiplicity”. How, then, to explore the enigmatic dwelling of the voice in its self-difference, in what Giorgio Agamben calls “the moat between phōnē and logos,” wherein voice is neither sound nor meaning, but that which runs between them.

The aim of this panel is to take up the question of voice in its relation to difference across literary periods and theoretical frameworks. What affects or affections stir the voice? What is the voice’s materiality, its relation to sound and sense? How do texts represent voices, how are texts themselves voiced? Literature offers a unique site at which to address these questions precisely because the voices and voicings of literary texts are threaded with the differential play of language. Dostoevsky’s polyphonic novels, Chaucer’s loquacious tale-tellers, and Soyinka’s chthonic dramaturgy all give voice to this difference without ever resolving into a simple identity. We seek papers that explore the various voices of literary texts, the voices of literary criticism, and the imbrication of voice and form. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Polyphony, Heteroglossia, Dialogicality
  • Voice as style, voice as “signature”
  • “Voicing” as composition and form
  • Pathemata or affects as that which inhere in the voice
  • Free Indirect Discourse
  • The “Lyric I”
  • Narration, character and “giving voice”
  • Non-human voices
  • Digital voices

Abstracts to be sent through the NeMLA portal: https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/18178


Please contact the co-chairs with any questions: 

Jr3850@columbia.edu (Joe Romano, Columbia University, Department of English and Comparative Literature)

nicholas_pisanelli@brown.edu (Nick Pisanelli, Brown University, Department of English)