Cfp. Between XII.24 (November 2022), "Entering the Simulacra World: Aesthetic and Cultural Phenomenologies in Literature, Media, and the Arts"
This issue of Between aims to investigate the phenomenology of simulacra and their range of functions (conceptual, cultural, literary, aesthetic, and in the media). What is meant here by “simulacrum” is any artificial creature that imitates or replicates the outward form and/or behaviour of living beings, especially human beings. When it comes to artefacts produced by technology – conceived in its broader sense as techne, and therefore also including magic and art – the simulacrum reveals itself as marked by operational autonomy and a variable degree of awareness. As a notion, it covers a variety of hybrid, liminal and often spectral figures populating the premodern, modern and contemporary imagination: from statues to puppets, from golems to homunculi, from automata to robots, from cyborgs to avatars and, ultimately, Artificial Intelligence.
The merging of the human with what transcends it – be it of a divine, natural or artificial origin – raises the issue of the relationship between the animate and the inanimate, living and non-living things, along a parable that spills over from the mythical to the technological domain. It is at this juncture that the uncanny dimension of simulacra comes into play, with its several mediatic and technological ramifications. We only need to think of the demiurgic artist’s moulding of a weird semblance of life (whether disguised or exhibited), or of androids, gynoids and the other biomechanical simulacra that can be found in literature and cinema, up to the slender unearthly bodies of avatars inhabiting info-digital spaces.
In a heuristic sense, our starting point consists in a selection of case studies that are to lay the groundwork for an inquiry wherein literary works will be assessed from both the point of view of textual analysis and in connection with the compelling relevance that the theme of simulacra has been gaining in the cultural sphere. Notably, in our pandemic present, the incumbent rethinking of conceptions regarding the body, interpersonal relationships and social distance has led to a virtualization of experience which, in some ways, had already found expression in science fiction. Out of these anthropological changes has emerged a notion of the simulacrum as a dispositif hinging on marginal ontologies and, as such, as a catalyst for fluid subjectivities capable of questioning and deconstructing the hegemony of the human.
Against this background, the purpose of the present issue is to engage in a thorough analysis of the ambivalent role played by simulacra vis-à-vis the human subject and the environment. The drawing up of a hermeneutic, historical, and literary framework is thus meant as a grid for a critical discourse relating to the homo artificialis’ identity, including contemporary debates on the posthuman and transhuman entity.
This issue of Between will therefore welcome scientific contributions in the following thematic areas:
• Archeologies and mythologies of the simulacrum: the simulacrum in premodern and modern literature; literary or cultural expressions and phenomenologies connected with the simulacrum, such as the Prometheus and Pygmalion myths and their developments; golems, mandrakes, and homunculi; the double and its variants.
• Theories and aesthetics of the simulacrum: the differences between representation and simulation, fakes and reproductions; the simulacrum as a hybrid manifestation fluctuating between the human and non-human poles; the themes and motifs gravitating around the simulacrum in literature and the arts, with their significant periodizations.
• The simulacrum and the reconfigurations of the human in connection with the body, society, and the environment: posthumanism and ecology (solar punk, post-apocalyptic fiction, speculative and science fiction); mechanical prostheses and extensions of the body; transhumanism and techno-scientific utopias.
• Simulacra in the performing arts: the simulacrum as a subject of performance; the context of puppetry: the shadow, the marionette, and the puppet; drama and the thematization of the simulacrum (as a twin, double, and artificial being); the actor’s body as a simulacrum; re-adaptations of the performing experience in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
• Simulacra in films: films as mirrors of reality and the simulacrum as a metaphor for the screen; avatars and avatarization in contemporary cinema.
• Simulacra in the media: the press and material culture, television, the Internet; the simulacrum in the Infosphere.
• The spectral component of simulacra: living statues and animated portraits; science, occultism, and witchcraft; Artificial Intelligence.
• Simulacra and the gender and transgender fields (Haraway, Braidotti)
Interested parties are invited to contact the editors before sending their contributions in case they need more precise information, or if they have doubts about the relevance of their own proposal.
Proposals (articles potentially ready for publication and accompanied by abstracts and metadata) must be sent by 31st March 2022 following the instructions available on Between's website, on the submissions page. The articles finally accepted will be published in November 2022.
Proposals in a language other than Italian, preferably English, will receive priority attention and are all the more appreciated if they relate to foreign authors.