On Breath (Conference, Utrecht University, 6-9 July 2017)

“Under these conditions, the individual’s breathing is an observed, an occupied breathing. It is a combat breathing.” (Frantz Fanon) “Das Gedicht bleibt […] pneumatisch berührbar.” (Paul Celan)

“The HEART, by way of the BREATH, to the LINE.” (Charles Olson)

“Pas de parole sans air qui la véhicule.” (Luce Irigaray) “Je suis un respirateur.” (Marcel Duchamp)

Frantz Fanon’s combat breathing, the poetics of Paul Celan’s Atemwende and Charles Olson’s Projective Verse, Luce Irigaray’s autonomous gesture of rethinking Western metaphysics, and Marcel Duchamp’s self-appointed professional affiliation all share a preoccupation with the respiratory.

From the politics of racialised violence to figures of thought, embodied poetics to feminist philosophy, this panel aims to address the question of breath in literature, the visual and performing arts, music and film. Whenever breath enters public discourses, is negotiated in philosophy or figures in art, the barely visible physiological process is invested with various meanings. Tracing the long cultural and etymological history of semantizations and networks of terms around it shows that breath is an utterly liminal term. We invite papers that take up breath as a poetic term, co-extensive with, but not limited to its cosmological associations in the Pre-Socratics and the Stoics, its creative implications in ancient models of inspiration, its structuring function in Ancient Rhetoric in Aristotle, Cicero and Quintilian, its diagnostic power for Medicine after Galen, or its spiritual dimensions for Pauline Theology.

Questions we would hope to address include, but are not restricted to, the following:

  • What are the contexts in which breath is discussed in various artforms and what role is attributed to it?
  • How do representations and actualisations of breathing differ in diverse art forms and media?
  • What shifts in the rendering of breath may be observed throughout the history of the respective arts?
  • How is breath contextualized, politicised, gendered, queered – and how does it resist conceptualisations?
  • How do the different arts attempt to incorporate the bodily process of breathing in their respective media and materialities?
  • How are historical conceptions of breath re-negotiated?
  • What are the poetological implications of breathing?

Interested scholars are encouraged to contact the seminar organizers and submit a paper proposal (max. 550 words) including a short biographical sketch (max. 150 words) through the ACLA website.

Deadline for Abstracts: 31st August 2016

Organizer: Stefanie Heine
Co-Organizer: Arthur Rose

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