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CFP: Language beyond Anthropos

The Empty Lot of Literature: Language beyond Anthropos

November 5, 2021, Université de Montréal

Organized by Laurence Sylvain, Louis-Thomas Leguerrier, Gabriel Tétrault, Terry Cochran

Between certain trenches, between certain countries at war in particular, in certain bordering areas, we sometimes find ourselves in a place where there is no one, an empty lot that we have become accustomed to calling no man’s land. As we know, language has made it a metaphor and an expression. It suggests a lack of human control and human ownership over a piece of land, over a place, a space that is out of place, deserted, bombed, strange, poor. Language has made it synonymous with what cannot be thought of in the usual way, that is, outside the human framework and the oppositions and dialectical systems that structure our rational and humanistic view of the world.

The empty lot is of interest to literary thought; indeed, it is one of its important tropes. Could it be that, between the languages themselves, through the texts that build bridges to who knows where, there is something other than the human whose presence is assumed by a kind of literary anthropomorphism? In his text on the “Task of the Translator”, Walter Benjamin considers that the work’s reception has no importance for exploring its meaning and translation, that it is only a question of presupposing the human in general. However, one could even question this “anthropos”. Who is he or she?

One of these “anthropoi” can be conceived, as Pierre Hadot indicates, in the guise of Socrates, not only the human but the wise man in general, precisely because he is atopos, i.e. without a place, impossible to classify, impossible to define. Now, Hadot tells us that Socrates is a figure. Can the anthropos be something else than a figure?

At a time of great upheavals that are hitting humanity head on, literature and literary theory are prime places to think about this empty lot that is becoming more and more visible among humans – and literally, city streets and the world are becoming large open-air empty lots. Above all, in its deepest expressions, literature itself is a kind of empty lot, which draws from and originates at the roots of reflections and visions about what is absent, fluid, unspeakable, non-binary, utopian, atypical, non-figurative, etc., and what is not. Literature is in fact the empty lot par excellence. There have never been any humans in front of us on paper and on screen, what intrinsically

characterizes literature is this shifting and this distancing, but the reading of writing seems so alive, so inhabited by a presence. How is this possible? How is it possible?

This study day aims both at a fundamental reflection on the stakes of the literary understood as an empty lot, as well as on the representations of this empty lot. Potential research topics might include but are not limited to the following:

– Figuration and non-figuration

– The non-places of the literary

– Translation as no man’s land

– Epistemology of nonplace

– The challenges of narrative

The event will be held on zoom, via the University of Montreal, with the possibility of it taking place in person if the situation allows it. We ask interested parties to send us their 250-word proposal (with a second document containing their name and affiliation) no later than May 9, 2021 to the email address Presentations will be a maximum of 20 minutes.

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