Delightful Dissolutions: Reading Beyond the Borderlands of Theory - (American Comparative Literature Association Annual Meeting, Montreal)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Anupama K, Rafid Chenadan

 ACLA's 2024 annual meeting will take place at the Palais des congrès de Montréal in Montreal, March 14-17, 2024.


“Read anything I write for the pleasure of reading it. Whatever else you find will be the measure of what you brought to the reading” - Hemingway

  Aristotle in his Poetics was one of the earliest philosophers to emphasise literature’s function to “delight” its readers by overlooking its didactic potential. Reading for pleasure and reading for a degree in Literature seem to be mutually exclusive activities with the former focusing on the aesthetic experience of the ‘event’ of reading whereas the latter concerns a more ‘serious’ and ‘distant’ exercise necessitating theoretical engagements and pronouncements. Is it possible to negotiate these two differing exercises?

To what extent has the 'excess' of theory rendered affect to be an external element in the literary or textual analysis? Edward Said’s notion of ‘secular criticism’ implies that theoretical approaches to literature tend to be ‘dogmatic.’ Gourgouris reiterates Said’s criticism and argues that the critical ‘study’ of literature becomes secular in its poiein nature. For Greeks, Poiētikē referred to their idea of ‘poetics.’ Gourgouris adopts the infinitive verb form poiein to refer to a practice of reading that is never exhausted and finalised.

          Putting the ‘reader’ at the centre, discourses in reception aesthetics have already contributed much to our understanding of the plural nature of literary reception. Derek Attridge’s conceptualisation of the ‘event’ of literature shifted the focus to the reader’s relation with the ‘work.’ A literary ‘text’ can be performed as infinite ‘works’ because each reader in each instance of reading is capable of having a singular relation with the work. Sometimes, what is more pleasurable than having your own version of a story!

Despite the emergence of formative literary frameworks that accommodate the poiein nature of literary reading, disciplinary norms have necessitated theory in the academic ‘readings’ of literature. Comparative Literature continues to survive despite disciplinary “deaths'' through its method or practice rather than any specific theory. The comparative methodology thrives owing to its perpetual openness to the plurality of what Derrida calls the ‘disjuncted’ and ‘disproportionated.’ With the growing emphasis on interdisciplinarity, to what cost has literary analysis been rendered external to the 'event' of reading?

Feel free to agree or disagree with the proposed notions. We welcome abstracts of around 250 words that engage with the following themes but are not limited to:

    • 'Event' of Reading
    • Reception Aesthetics
    • Excess Theory in Literary Analysis
    • Comparative Methodology
    • Interdisciplinarity within Literary Studies
    • ‘Disciplinary’ Concerns within Comparative Literature
    • Revival of Affect Studies