Negotiating the Seen and the Felt: where American Art meets American Writing
Chairs: Catherine Gander and Philip McGowan, Queen’s University Belfast.
‘Once we start thinking, talking and writing about …art, we discover that the line between abstraction and representation is no more impermeable than the line between images and words.’ (James A.W. Heffernan, Cultivating Picturacy ).
‘Art is the objectification of feeling.’ (Herman Melville)
This panel seeks to bring together papers whose focus is on modern and contemporary American works that address the space between expression and experience in both written and visual terms. This may include imagetext works, literary works that respond to visual arts, or visual arts that respond to literary works.
The recent turn in American literature and art has been toward affect: a position that privileges an embodied encounter of the artwork as an experiential interface rather than as an object removed from the practice of everyday life. According to such approaches, the human body is positioned as central and unbounded; affect is understood to exist in constant motion between it and other bodies, be they human or otherwise. This has meant a renewal of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s primacy of perception, leading to a methodological shift in the connected fields of ekphrastic creative writing, aesthetics, art writing, curatorship and literary studies. In recent years, negotiations between discursive and immersive practices have sought to move beyond old paradigms of the sublime or transcendent influence of aesthetic experience to an understanding of materiality that still acknowledges the persistence of the ineffable. Despite these innovations, however, the spaces in which affective literary and visual practices overlap remain largely untheorised.
Contiguous to this turn is the reappraisal of the physical space of the aesthetic encounter itself. Contemporary installations and exhibitions increasingly take into account the participatory needs of the art-viewer, whose full sensorium is engaged in an often interactive experience. Likewise, creative literature, especially that responding to the visual arts in ekphrastic or critical terms, seeks methods of attending to cross-currents between visual and verbal expression that include visual poetics, the use of three-dimensional space, and the intersections of photography and text, for example.
Papers are therefore encouraged to attend to the interplay between the felt and the seen in American texts that work at the intersections of the written and the visual. Topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- New directions in ekphrasis
- Spaces of experience, for example the gallery or the street
- Silence and noise
- Curatorship and display
- Embodied aesthetics
- Contemplation and participation
- New aesthetic approaches to existent artworks
This panel is proposed for the biennial conference of the European Association for American Studies, to be held in Constanta, Romania, 22nd-25th April, 2016.
Abstracts of 250 words, plus a brief biography, should be sent to Dr Catherine Gander (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 12 June 2015.