The horizon where the monsters dwell - Word and World special issue EXTENDED DEADLINE

deadline for submissions: 
March 31, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
University of Bielsko-Biała

In the Western perception of things, which still preserves the Platonic, or rather Parmenidean image of a stable order in which they exist, the potentiality of monstrousness, emerging from fractures in this world – or, to reach even deeper, from the dark matter of the chōra, the sombre Nurse of all becoming – appears as absurd, and yet at the same time as ecstatic, epiphanic.

Klaus Nürnberger, an expert in the evolution of ideas, sees the recurring manifestations of the monstrous in different cultures as units of meaning travelling forward in time, and in his seminal seven theses on monster culture, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen makes a complementary claim, succinctly reminding us that monsters are inevitably manifestations of the historical circumstances that spawn them: “The monstrous body is pure culture.”[1] After all, the very etymology of the word monster (“that which reveals”, “that which warns”) encourages treating the monstrous as a text of culture par excellence. In face of today’s multicrises, Adorno’s dramatic claim that “to write a poem after Auschwitz is barbaric” resonates with the alternative presented by Slavoj Zizek in his consideration of the possible strategies for facing the pandemic: a communal effort to come to terms with our situation or a collapse into a new barbarism. The monsters are already here; we can no longer pretend they will go away if we close our eyes. The question that we urgently need to ask ourselves is how to tame them, live with them, learn from them.

Scholars of the monstrous remind us that it tends to facilitate a rethinking of our ways of being in the world. To quote Cohen again: “A mixed category, the monster resists any classification built on hierarchy or a merely binary opposition, demanding instead a ‘system’ allowing polyphony, mixed response […] The horizon where the monsters dwell might well be imagined as the visible edge of the hermeneutic circle itself: the monstrous offers an escape from its hermetic path, an invitation to explore new spirals, new and interconnected methods of perceiving the world.”[2] In this sense, monsters are not only a manifestation of a crisis (and as such require a new approach to reality), but actually enable new approaches by questioning earlier categories through their very presence. The monstrous challenges our ways of making sense and at the same time opens them up to the possibility of new reconfigurations. Our call for articles invites you to use this opportunity.

Topics might include but are not limited to the following:

-        Genesis of monsters

-        Monstrosity and reproduction

-        Forms of monstrosity in literature and culture

-        Manifestations of monsters across the centuries

-        Monster with(in) us

-        Monsters as others/ as the abject/ as metaphors for social anxieties

-        The concepts of ‘monsters’ or ‘monstrosity’ in contemporary research

-        The concepts of unwar, unpeace

-        Narratives/counter-narratives

-        Liminal spaces

-        Postnormal times

-        Polycrisis

-        Anthropocene, capitalocene

The special issue of the Word and World semiannual will appear in the first half of 2024.
Please send your proposal, along with a list of references and a short bio by the end of February 2023. You will receive our decision within a week. The deadline for the articles is end of April 2023.

[1] Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Monster Culture (Seven Theses), “Monster Theory: Reading Cuture”, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, University of Minnesota Press, 1996, p. 3.

[2] Ibid., p. 7