[Foucault-L] CFP: ACLA 2016: "Poetry as Practice, Practice as Poetry"

CFP: ACLA 2016: "Poetry as Practice, Practice as Poetry"

Paper abstracts sought for the American Comparative Literature Association's Annual Meeting, 17-20 March, 2016, Harvard University. Abstracts due 23 September, 2015.
Papers due March 2016.

We invite scholars from across the disciplines, poets, and poet-critics to submit abstracts for papers on the topic below for inclusion in our proposed seminar. Seminars will be selected by ACLA based on the abstracts received through 23 September, 2015. Per ACLA guidelines, abstracts must be no more than 1500 characters in length (including spaces) -- about 250 words.

We encourage anyone interested in participating to contact the seminar organizers at mickelsonjn@xxxxxxxxx and robert.farrell@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx before uploading their abstracts to the ACLA website, though we will review all proposals directly submitted at:

Seminar details are available at the above website and below. Please feel free to forward this call to colleagues and friends who may be working in related areas.


Nate Mickelson
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Robert Farrell
Lehman College, City University of New York

"Poetry as Practice, Practice as Poetry"

The philosopher Pierre Hadot worked throughout his career to locate poetry, particularly Goethe’s, within forms of “spiritual exercise” grounded in western philosophical and religious traditions. For Hadot, spiritual exercises (or practices) are forms of thinking, meditation, or dialogue that “have as their goal the transformation of our vision of the world and the metamorphosis of our being.” While Hadot’s thought on spiritual practice found its widest audience through Foucault’s work on “care of the self,” it has recently resurfaced in Gabriel Trop’s Poetry as a Way of Life (2015), whose title echoes that of the 1995 English translation of Hadot’s Philosophy as a Way of Life (quoted above). Drawing on Hadot and Foucault, Trop argues that the reading and writing of poetry can be understood as “aesthetic exercise,” a form of practice involving "sensually oriented activity in the world attempts to form, influence, perturb or otherwise generate patterns of thought, perception, or action.” Though Trop is careful to distinguish his ideas from Hadot and Foucault, we might argue that poetry allows the aesthetic or spiritual practitioner to “struggl[e] against the ‘government of individualization’” (Foucault, 1982) and to enact “a way of being, a way of coping within, reacting to, and acting upon the world” (Trop, 2015).

Our seminar takes as its starting point a broad conception of “practice,” both spiritual and aesthetic. We seek proposals that consider poetries and ways of reading as forms of practice or that challenge the premise altogether. Some questions that might be considered:

• Trop suggests that religious poetries (e.g., Greek tragedy, the Divina Commedia) are conducive to “aesthetic exercise.” In what ways do poets and readers within religious/meditative traditions enact disciplines/practices of the self?
• Poets associated with avant-garde movements often make strong claims about the urgency of their poetics. In what ways can “poetry as practice” help us understand their reading and writing practices? Can non- or even anti-avant-garde poetries be understood in similar terms?
• How might the notion of poetry as a “way of life” help us understand contemporary lyric poetry?
• Trop argues that late 18th century German poets, including Novalis and Holderlin, used their poetic practice to constitute themselves as non-normative subjects. What other times/places/poets might we see as concerned with poetry as a form of self-constitution?
• George Oppen suggests that “part of the function of poetry is to serve as a test of truth.” In what ways can Oppen’s poetics, or those of similarly engaged poets, be understood as enabling spiritual or aesthetic exercise?
• How might the concept of spiritual/aesthetic practice contribute to current debates about the relevance of poetry to the social/economic/environmental justice movements?

Partial thread listing: