10–13 May 2016
Department of English, Stockholm University
NB! Extended Deadline for CFP: January 5, 2016
The conference “Presumed Autonomy: Literature and the Arts in Theory and Practice” aims to explore recent debates about autonomy, focusing on conceptualizations of literature and the arts as part of social institutions and everyday life practices. It asks whether there is anything in these fields that corresponds to the concept of autonomy, and if so, how we can identify autonomy in any of its forms, how we might register its effects, and whether aesthetic autonomy means the same in theory and practice.
By focusing on areas in which the concept is used to break new conceptual and theoretical ground, and by widening the scope to encompass more than the traditional ground of aesthetics, this conference differs from earlier scholarly collaborations such as the valuable but philosophically focused collection edited by Owen Hulatt. The continued interest in the concept of autonomy derives precisely from its various uses in academic disciplines as diverse as cultural theory, philosophy, literature, sociology anthropology, history and technical science, to name but a few: a situation that has prompted the organising committee’s interest in the concept.
With participants from a variety of disciplines, this conference seeks to explore approaches to autonomy as ways of negotiating disciplinary, institutional, structural, and media-specific boundaries between art and non-art. The conference will therefore be an important venue to widen the conversation (both within and across disciplines,) on the current theorization of the autonomy of aesthetic practices.
Given the multiplicity of perspectives that proliferate on issues of autonomy, the conference will be organised around four thematic clusters: a) autonomy and the avant-garde; b) theories of aesthetic autonomy; c) fields, markets, capitals, commodities and autonomy; and d) autonomy and the body.
The concept of autonomy can be aligned with personal politics, market value and commercial pressures, or simply, as a courtship of the new younger generations of art consumers. This conference seeks to explore multiple ways to understand what motivates the various uses of autonomy in literature and the arts. By placing the concept of autonomy at the heart of the tensions between nostalgic images of the past and historical imagination, between contemporary technological pessimism and technophilia, between understanding of art’s disinterestedness and a new interest in materiality, this conference will provide a historical and cultural perspective on how the conceptualization of art as part of life practices, radically redefined and repurposed the notion of art’s autonomy to approach the question of autonomy in terms of the particularities of individual temporal experiences captured in aesthetic form.
The conference’s interdisciplinary stance highlights the need to present a variety of theoretical and practical perspectives on autonomy to inform and illuminate the uses of the concept, both past and present, but it also seeks to address the relevance and potential that the concept in fact has in contemporary scholarly debate. A common concern underlying the discussion of autonomy has been, and continues to be, the intersections between theory and practice. Many scholars today seem to agree that neither the opposition between the individual and the collective, nor the submersion of these two ontological positions in the socio-political agenda, can sufficiently explicate the emergence of new identities, practices and ideas. The continued interest in the concept of autonomy derives precisely from its various uses in academic disciplines as diverse as cultural theory, philosophy, literature, sociology anthropology, history and technical science, to name but a few: a situation that has prompted the organising committee’s interest in the concept. As the concept of autonomy criss-crosses the current research projects conducted at the English department, the conference will be an important venue to widen the scholarly conversation (both within and across disciplines,) on the current theorizations of the autonomy of aesthetic practices.