Thanks to our participants for sharing their papers-in-progress and to our workshop participants for their thoughtful questions and responses.
Pedro Escobar-Uribe (Spanish & Portuguese) "No Maps for These Territories: Proliferation of Information in the Digital Era"
This essay aims to apply the concepts of territory, deterritorialization and reterritorialization put forth by Deleuze and Guattari (1991) in order to explain some of the ways in which information has been transformed in the digital age. Julio Cortázar’s short story End of the World of the End (in Cronopios and Famas, 1962) and Mika Taanila’s documentary The Future Is Not What It Used to Be (2002), will work as a point of departure in order to explore two points of view regarding the saturation of content: before and after the digital era. Proliferation of information is the main subject in both works; however, each of them elaborates on this growth from opposing perspectives. Among other concepts, the essay will explore the creation of new territories by means of artistic creation, as well as the democratization of information. Cultural production is proposed as the parameter with which to analyze these new territories created by information; while looking at the paradoxical situation in which digital information storage increases as the content does, the physical size of said storage is decreasing at an inversely proportional rate to the quantity of information being stored. This paradox, I conclude, results in the creation of a virtual territory, a new non-geographical space.
Can Aksoy (English) "Sexy Neutrality: Chaotic Metaphysics in Michel Houellebecq's Platform"
This paper asserts that Michel Houellebecq’s chaotic characterization of Platform’s (2002) narrative world creates the novel’s controversial, ethically and politically neutral depiction of sex tourism. Through sampling the theoretical works of Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deluze, Felix Guattari and Paul Virilio, this paper defines chaos as the belief that all phenomena are fundamentally random, and that attempts at order are delusional simulations. This theme is fundamental to how Houellebecq depicts Michel’s (Platform’s protagonist) alienated interactions with his social world. The highly introspective Michel is overwhelmed with the notion that no philosophic work can be done to generate a sense of cultural meaningfulness in western contexts. In allowing this painful, alienated affect to dominate all of the novel’s first person narration, Houellebecq places thematic pressure on sex as the reader’s only escape from this dreary perspective. In pairing sex with a relief from despair, the novel shifts its depiction of sex tourism away from a language of colonialist exploitation, to one of affective survival in chaotic landscapes. In theorizing this narrative shift, this paper reveals how Platform’s outwardly neutral treatment of sex tourism instead serves as a demonstration of how exploitation can masquerade as redemptive action.
Lacey Smith (Comparative Literature) "Danielle Dutton's S P R A W L and the Ideology of Suburbia"
My work focuses on Danielle Dutton's 2010 stream-of-consciousness novel S P R A W L and its investigation of the social interactions and spacial dynamics of suburban space. Bringing Dutton into conversation with Louis Althusser, among other theorists, I focus on the role ideology plays in the social dynamics of the neighborhood, particularly as they relate to the construction and negotiation of identity within suburban space. The suburb is a prototypical model for postmodern space and is complicit in the deterritorialization and restructuring of concepts of subjectivity and identity characteristic of postmodernity. Specifically, suburban space organizes bodies in such a way as to both nurture and multiply the subjection of bodies within that space to the dictates of ideology. Dutton's novel is a provocative investigation of the experience of the body (in this case, a notably female body) within suburban space and the negotiation of identity which is a necessary aspect of living within that space. Further, by situating her novel within the contemporary while reflecting on the ideological nostalgia that persists within suburban spaces, Dutton accomplishes the Sisyphean task of characterizing that otherwise elusive concept, which is itself an ideology, of suburbia.