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CfP: Obsession in Context: The Fourth East Asian Conference on Comparative Literature

Soochow University,
Taipei, Taiwan

We take great pleasure in announcing that the Fourth East Asian Conference on Comparative Literature, sponsored by the Comparative Literature Association of the Republic of China (CLAROC), will be hosted by Soochow University in Taipei, Taiwan, on March 10, 2012. The theme for this conference is “Obsession in Context.”

Obsession is usually associated with excessiveness or a lack of temperance. As a concept, therefore, it is by definition contextualized: excess as determined by normal self-control, intemperate fixation as determined by reasonable balance. Interestingly, the usually negative association with morbid deviancy is more than “balanced” by an obverse concern with the driving intensity of obsession, as if without such animating intensity we can only be left with an uneventful backdrop of bland normalcy. Thus territorialization (obsedere: to besiege, to occupy) is inherently associated with the deterritorialization of excess (excedere: to depart, to go beyond). This duality can be used to explain our fascination with and perennial debates about Oedipus’ status as a tragic hero, or about Antigone’s status as a model of ideal desire.

The elucidation of this problematic of duality in obsession is of particular interest to comparative literature, a field traditionally defined by a kind of transgressive enclosure of literature in normative cultural contexts. There is enclosure because the object of comparison is necessarily situated within restrictive cultural particularities, but such enclosure can be transgressive when it becomes the ground of differentiation to escape the flatness of the larger context of globality. Instances of this shift to comparative contextualization can be found in other contexts as well. One recurrent discursive topos in Buddhism, for example, is to use local “grasping” (conformance to a mundane life style) as a possible way to prevent excessive global attachment (a straightjacketing fixation on enlightenment that “out-grasps” grasping).

We, therefore, invite papers investigating all aspects of obsession with a view to furthering our understanding of (1) its imbrication with the dynamics of contextual conformance and transgression and (2) its relevance to the contextuality of literary comparison and thus to the ongoing search for a disciplinary paradigm in comparative literature.

Possible topics include but are not limited to the following:

  • Obsession and repetition
  • Technology and excess
  • The allure of production/productivity
  • Affect and habit
  • Cult, fashion, and fandom
  • Obsession and the canon
  • Power and resistance
  • Obsessive love and hate
  • Addictions
  • Sainthood and martyrdom
  • Crime and conspiracy
  • Philosophical approaches to obsession

Our working deadline for proposals is June 1, 2011, and notice of acceptance will be announced in late June. Please send your proposal in English (500 words maximum) and brief curriculum vitae to