Seminar “The Objects of Still Life”, at the American Comparative Literature Association’s 2015 Annual Meeting, Seattle, 26-29 March 2015
Organizer: Karen Jacobs, University of Colorado at Boulder
Co-Organizer: Laurence Petit, Université Paul Valéry-Montpellier 3
Call for papers:
In light of recent reconceptions of objects, materialisms, and their contested ontological underpinnings, this seminar reconsiders the still life as a historical genre fundamentally conversant with the object form. The seminar furthermore revisits the question of the mutual constitution of literary and pictorial still lives across a range of historical and cultural contexts. We highlight several paradoxes that subtend the identity of the still life. The first inheres in the shift of emphasis between the English “still life” and the French “nature morte,” the latter sense of which is most prominent in the still life sub-genre of vanitas paintings; here we find the still life’s aesthetic quest confounded by its confrontation with the transience and futility of human pleasures. The second paradox concerns the connotative and ontological status of those objects that the still life conventionally represents. Chiefly consecrated to the quotidian objects of domestic life, the still life has long been consigned to the lower rungs of pictorial representation. While recent work asserting a “democracy of objects” (Bogost) pushes back against this hierarchical understanding through such concepts as the assemblage, new materialists (Alaimo, Barad) have shown the ways the gendering of objects and their domestic contexts renders such hierarchies still durable. Finally, however much the objects of still life are aestheticized, they nevertheless exist in some proximity to the commodity form and its circulation of meanings and values; like the “democracy of objects,” the exchange value of commodities also flattens hierarchies of meaning but in a wholly different register.
Submissions are to be made online on the ACLA website: http://www.acla.org/objects-still-life
Deadline for submissions: 15 October 2014.