Life as a Work of Art (ACLA Seminar)
Stadt: Cambridge, MA, USA
American Comparative Literature Association
Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
March 17-20, 2016
Seminar: Life as a Work of Art
Organizer: Giulia Radaelli, Bielefeld University
“Couldn’t everyone’s life become a work of art? Why should the lamp or the house be an art object, but not our lives?”, asked the late Michel Foucault, being confessedly fascinated by the “idea of the bios as a material for an aesthetic piece of art”. Foucault’s legacy of an “aesthetics of existence”, tracing back to his analysis of the techniques of the self and of the souci de soi, left an ample scope for questions about the “material”, the form(s), and the subject of life as a work of art, that have been taken up by thinkers like Judith Butler and Giorgio Agamben. Literature qualifies as a primary object of investigation for raising further issues, e.g.: Which understanding of aesthetics is required as a basis for making life a work of art? How is an aesthetics of existence linked with an ethics of existence, and, in this respect, with the writing and reading of literature? What makes up the aesthetic, or artistic, features and aims of life? Can life itself unfold as a novel, a legend, or a tragicomedy? Can it condense in a verse, a maxim, or a saying? Can life become a work of art, or an artifact, at all? And if so, is there just a metaphorical, or also a literal, possibly even a unique literary, meaning to it?
Reflecting about life as literature, and literature as life, the seminar suggests focusing more closely on the relationship between literature and the ‘art of living’. Art is thereby not only conceived in terms of beauty, or other aesthetic categories, but also as a techne, that is, as a specific kind of knowledge, entailing a whole set of practices, as well as various modes and purposes of productivity. Particularly welcome are, on this view, case studies of literature in which an ‘art of living’ is (explicitly or implicitly) displayed as life-form, lifestyle, or a model of life, also in reference to literary genres. Complementary to that, papers are invited to consider how narratives and concepts of a ‘beautiful’, ‘happy’, or ‘good’ life, are generated, appropriated, transformed, or negated, through literature. However, since the main interest is ultimately to investigate the relationship between literature and life in general, bringing together contributions that analyze this relationship by covering different topics and trying out different scholarly approaches will prove a valuable challenge for the seminar.
Please submit your paper proposal (max. 250 words) between Semptember 1 and September 23 directly via the ACLA website:
The ACLA Program Committee will notify the organizer of seminar acceptance or rejection by November 15, 2015.
For any questions, please feel free to contact the seminar organizer:
Giulia Radaelli email@example.com